On this episode of the Advocacy Update, Claire and Clark spoke with Barbara Raimondo, Executive Director, Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf, about reintroduction of the Cogswell Macy Act (H.R. 4822 & S. 2681). Named for the first deaf student to be formally educated in the U.S. and for Helen Keller’s beloved teacher, respectively, the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act will strengthen the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to improve results for deaf, hard of hearing, blind, visually impaired, and deaf-blind children, including those with additional disabilities. More information about the Cogswell Macy Act is available at: https://cogswellmacyact.org/. To learn more about ACB, please visit: www.acb.org.
Intro: You are listening to the ACB Advocacy Update.
Claire Stanley: Hey everybody, this is Claire coming at you with another episode of ACB Advocacy Update. Again, I'm Claire, I'm the Advocacy and Outreach Specialist here at the American Council of the Blind. Sitting next to me is
Clark Rachfal: Clark Rachfal, Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs for the American Council of the Blind. Thank you to everyone joining us over ACB Radio as well as everyone listening over their favorite podcast player. And as always, if you'd like to find out more information about ACB, please look up our website, www.acb.org.
Claire Stanley: Great. Thanks Clark. So we'll just go ahead and jump in. We are fortunate to have another guest speaker with this this week. Working on a project with us, I should say she's been doing so much of the work, but it's something that ACB has been working on for many, many, years and that is the Cogswell Macy Act. So before we begin and talk about the act itself, Barbara, do you mind introducing yourself to our listeners?
Barbara Raimondo: Sure. Hi everybody. I'm so happy to be here today. Thank you Claire and Clark for inviting me. My name is Barbara Raimondo and I'm currently the Executive Director of the Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf. And that is the organization of deaf schools in the United States. And some of you may be familiar with the council of schools for the blind and we are their kind of sister organization or their counterpart of deaf schools. So I'm happy to be here today. I have been involved in advocacy and deaf education for many years. I got involved when I found out my daughter was deaf and she was just a baby, you know, as a hearing person, I didn't really know anything about deafness or deaf education and just learning what I did and some of the, you know, statistics and the outcomes that were kind of troubling. I decided to get involved with advocacy and then I later had another child and he was born deaf too. So even though we don't have deafness in my family, I was introduced to it in an up close and personal way. And so I've been involved for many years in this effort. And with Cogswell Macy as well for not quite all those many years, but a good number of years.
Claire Stanley: Great. Well perfect. That's a perfect lead in to talk about the Cogswell Macy Act. So as a background, it's been an imperative that ACB has been working on for many, many years. We pick several imperatives every year to talk about at our Legislative Seminar at our Leadership Conference in February and it's something that ACB has been eagerly pushing for as well. One of our former ACB employees, Mark Richert, has done a lot of work on this topic in the past as well. So something we're really interested in promoting and continue to push for. So do you mind giving us of a nutshell explanation of what Cogswell Macy is all about.
Barbara Raimondo: Sure. So Cogswell Macy would amend the individuals with disabilities, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to better serve the needs of deaf, blind and deaf-blind students. Now we all know that IDEA is supposed to serve all 6.6 million students with disabilities. And it really spells out much detail about the things that should be done. And honestly, in my opinion, if it was really implemented the way it was written, probably we wouldn't have a need for something like Cogswell Macy. But we know that in most States and districts and schools, the personnel for deaf, blind, or deaf-blind students just aren't there. The resources aren't there, the knowledge isn't there. And we know that these students have super, super diverse needs. I mean, you can't say, well, we're going to have a program this year and that'll fit the kid that comes to us next year. It just doesn't work that way.
So it really goes into a lot of detail on expanding and enhancing current provisions of IDEA. So for example, there's a section in IDEA on evaluations and Cogswell Macy really goes into more detail about what the evaluations would look like for our populations of students because so many schools just don't know what's involved with those. So that's really the, the, the nutshell of it. You know, it doesn't kick out anything that's in IDEA. It just really builds upon what's there, which is, you know, to a large extent a very good foundation. So that's that's really basically what it is, an enhancement of IDEA.
Claire Stanley: That's really cool to hear more about what it's all about. It made me think of an article that I saw being passed around Facebook recently about the extreme extreme shortage we have right now in the US of TVIs, teachers of the visually impaired. And it kind of plays into what you're saying about how education for deaf, blind, or deaf-blind students is so unique. And so we need teachers and educators who can work with those students. They're already seeing that we have such a shortage of educators, so really shines light on how important this topic is.
Barbara Raimondo: Yeah, that's shortages is such a big problem. And there are a lot of different approaches that people are using in terms of going to Congress and asking for more money and raising the issue at the national level. But of course there is, you know, language in Cogswell Macy talking about the requirements for specialized personnel for our students. But again, it's kind of a balancing act like the requirements there, but if the people aren't there, that's another issue too. So this certainly is not the be all end all of all advocacy, but I think it really dovestail very nicely with a lot of the advocacy that a lot of us are already doing
Claire Stanley: For sure. So it's something that many groups such as ours and yours have been working on for many years trying to get through. Can you talk a little bit about what just happened? We're in October now. This episode will probably air in November, but can you tell us about the big day when it was dropped again?
Barbara Raimondo: Sure. So for, let's see, for three sessions of Congress, we had it introduced with, um, no, I'm sorry. Yes. For previous sessions of Congress, we had the bill introduced in the house only. We weren't able to find bipartisan support in the Senate. And we always wanted this to be bipartisan. It is a Democratic and Republican issue. It is not one or the other. And so we always had the support in the house, but it took a few sessions of Congress before we actually got the Republican support in the Senate. So we finally got that in the last go round of this congressional cycle, which was very exciting. Now this year, both the House and the Senate introduced the bill on the same day. So it's a bipartisan bicameral bill. And that's really very exciting if you look around and think about what is being introduced to Congress on a bicameral bipartisan basis these days is really not that much.
Claire Stanley: Doesn't happen very often.
Barbara Raimondo: No, no, not at all. So we're very excited that, that both sides, you know, are stepping up to this and making this happen. Now we, our next steps are to get more co-sponsors. We have 18 co-sponsors in the House so far. We really want to raise that number. In the last Congress, we were up to about 48 co-sponsors in the House. And you know, I think we can do that again. We're going to be going back to folks who were on board before, we're going to be educating new members of Congress. We're going to be reaching out to our constituents around the country and I know you are as well. We have our advocacy day or Capitol Hill advocacy day coming up in February and it's right on the heels of ACB's. So that's really exciting. So there we have a lot of next steps that are lined up to make sure that this really goes forward.
Now I want people to understand that when a bill is introduced and even if it gets a lot of momentum, there are really very few bills that actually get passed in Congress and get signed by the president. And so we're being very clear eyed and realistic about the chances of this, you know, chances are that it's not going to pass as a standalone bill. We recognize that. We would love it if it did, but we have to be ready for the fact that it may not. So what we put it out there as is as a marker for when IDEA does come up for reauthorization, that we have this language that's been agreed to by the deaf education community, blind education and deaf-blind education. These are our markers. These are our goals for education for our students. And we would like to see some of this get into a reauthorized IDEA. Now you know, we know it's not going to be all of it.
The bill is pretty long. It's about 50 pages long. We don't, we're realistic enough to expect that not everything is going to get in there. But if you know, the IDEA does come up and we're sitting around the table with congressional staffers and they say, hey, tell us, you know, what are your key points that you want to see and we know that you've worked really hard on this and that you've got a lot of support from your communities. What are the key points that you want us to address in this reauthorized IDEA? Then you know, we've already set the stage for that conversation. So that's really what it is. It's a good messaging vehicle to Congress. It's a messaging vehicle for our constituents. It's something that we can all rally around and say, you know, hey, this is what we think is really important. And so that's the realistic view of it, that we're pushing it along and moving it along and it's really important to have it out there as a message and it fits with our other messages as well. And we're realistic about, you know, where, where we may end up. It may not pass on its own completely, but we'll still have some mileage that we, that we'll be getting out of it.
Claire Stanley: I like that word mileage because it is something that ACB for instance, has been working on for many, many sessions as well. But we're not going to stop, you know, advocating for it. Because like you said, it's such an important message to get out there. Education is a big thing and we need to make sure that those of us who are blind or deaf-blind or deaf, have the resources we need to have a good education.
Barbara Raimondo: Exactly.
Claire Stanley: You mind talking, I know you said there were several sponsors, but do you mind just doing a shout out of some of the main big sponsors on both the House and Senate who presented it this year?
Clark Rachfal: As well as the bill numbers please.
Barbara Raimondo: Sure. Okay. So the bill numbers are HR 4822. So that's in the House, and the Senate number is 2681.
Claire Stanley: Gotcha. Okay.
Barbara Raimondo: And the leads are Matt Cartwright out of Pennsylvania. He's always been the top dog on this. I mean he responded to us almost immediately when we went up there a few years ago. So he was really, just has been a great supporter and his office has been great working with us. And similarly, Mr...
Claire Stanley: If anybody of you guys live in Cartwright's district, please feel free to send him an email and say thank you.
Barbara Raimondo: Absolutely. Absolutely. And Mr. McKinley from West Virginia who has a cochlear implant himself, he has late onset hearing loss and he has a cochlear implant, and he's been the lead in the House from the Republican side. On the Senate side, we have our old friend Ed Markey from Massachusetts who has been such a leader on so many of our issues and also Shelley Moore Capito out of West Virginia.
Claire Stanley: Great, awesome.
Clark Rachfal: And Barbara, will you please discuss some of the other organizations? I know there are a lot of organizations nationally as well as on the state level who support Cogswell Macy such as ACB and the American Foundation for the Blind. Who are some of the other national organizations that support Cogswell Macy?
Barbara Raimondo: Right. So right now we're up to almost 80 organizations that have signed on as an endorsing organization. And I'll give you some, let's see, a sample here. American Society for Deaf Children, DeafBlind Camp of Texas, Illinois Advocates for the Deaf-blind, National Association of the Deaf, Perkins School for the Blind. Let's see, Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Usher Syndrome Coalition. So it's, it's really quite a cross section of schools and organizations at the national and the state and local level as well.
Claire Stanley: That's great.
Clark Rachfal: And have you heard any pushback against the bill?
Barbara Raimondo: So some of the pushback is more at a higher level. I've heard a couple of different kinds of pushback. One is some groups say, well, we don't like legislation that only addresses certain groups. We want, you know, if you're talking about IDEA, you should be talking about everybody. And to be frank, I find that it's not convincing because I do think that there, I mean we just can look around and we see there's plenty of legislation that's passed for particular groups and you know, if you can make something happen for your constituency, of course you're going to do it. So that, that doesn't really work for me. And especially with our groups, I mean, I really do feel like we've been overlooked. We're lumped in with all of special education and yet deaf students make up about 1% of students under IDEA, blind students are about half of 1%, and deaf-blind are something like a 10th of 1%. So it's, we're certainly overlooked when you talk about, you know, general discussions about special education. So we really do have to stand up and you know, make some noise for our kids because we're the only ones who are going to do it. So that's the main one I've heard. Sometimes I'll hear like a misunderstanding or a misquoting of it. And then I'm really quick to clarify what that is, clarify what the bill says. But the broader and bigger misunderstanding or not misunderstanding, but objection is the one that I mentioned about, you know, just philosophically speaking, we don't think there should be, you know, one bill for one particular group or one population.
Clark Rachfal: Yeah. I think that one of the important points for our audience and ACB members is what exactly does this bill mean for the expanded core curriculum, and that the Cogswell Macy Act will protect and still encourage the teaching of braille for visually impaired students, as well as other assistive technologies and low vision devices when appropriate.
Barbara Raimondo: Yes, absolutely. That's a good point about the braille and the the curriculum, the expanded core curriculum. Because, I mean your advocacy has been so great in terms of braille and the expanded core curriculum and now this is a way to actually enshrine it in federal law. So yeah, this is what they mean about different efforts dovetailing on each other. You know, you do something like that takes off in a lot of states and sometimes it makes it to the federal level. So you really, all these efforts I do think sort of are collaborative efforts and they bounce off of each other and feed off of each other.
Claire Stanley: Great. Well is there anything else about the Cogswell Macy Act that you feel would be important for our members and our listeners to know?
Barbara Raimondo: I think just be sure to contact your member of Congress and see if they are a sponsor and if not, ask them to be one if they are a sponsor. Thank them. There is a website, it's a pretty basic website, but it's cogswellmacyact.org and there is a list of the sponsors and the endorsing organizations and you know, some bare bones information about it. But that's a good place to go to find out the basics about it. And certainly I know that the two of you are able to share information with your members and answer questions and I am as well. And I think that's it right now. Just keep moving it forward and keep talking about it and making sure that it's a thing that people know that we think this is important for our kids.
Claire Stanley: As a fun little fact about it. Can you tell us Cogswell Macy, I know Macy is for Ann Sullivan Macy, is that correct? And who's Cogswell?
Barbara Raimondo: Yes, yes, that's right. So Alice Cogswell is the first child who received, the first deaf child who received a formal education in the United States. And this was in Connecticut. And it's, I love this story. I'm glad you asked this. So this young girl was deaf and her father was very concerned about her and they had a neighbor who was concerned and well, what are we going to do? Of course there was no education for her in the country. This is in the early 1800's and so the gentleman who lived next door, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, the father paid for him to travel around to Europe and learn, you know, appropriate ways to teach deaf children. And he came back with a teacher, Laurent Clerc, who himself was deaf. And so the three of them got together and founded the very first school for the deaf in the United States, the American School for the Deaf, which was founded in 1817 and I always love that story as a parent because I always use that as an example of how, you know, parents and educators and the deaf community has to work together because each of us has something to bring to the support for our children. So, you know, I love it when I see the consumer organizations and educational organizations and parent organizations all working towards a common goal because of course we have the best interests of these children in mind.
Claire Stanley: That's great. Yeah. Then of course, we all know Anne Sullivan, so yeah, I love that. That's a great, a great combo.
Clark Rachfal: For listeners who don't know Ann Sullivan Macy, Claire?
Claire Stanley: I actually didn't know Macy was the second name though. Was that that a married name I'm assuming taken on? Do you know Barbara?
Barbara Raimondo: I do not know.
Claire Stanley: Okay. Because Ann Sullivan with Helen Keller and learning, you know, all teaching her how to sign and teaching her as a deaf-blind student and what have you. But I'd never heard Macy as the, the married name but yes, Ann Sullivan Macy.
Clark Rachfal: So Barbara we will certainly share the Cogswell Macy Act website with the listeners and direct people to their members of Congress websites as well as the Capitol Switchboard, which is (202) 224-3121. So folks, if you're in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, thank Senator Markey, representative Cartwright, Senator Capito and representative McKinley for introducing the bills and for everyone else, we got some work to do.
Claire Stanley: That's right, please start sending emails. Like Barbara said earlier, we, Clark and I are very happy to answer any questions you might have. Feel free to call us or email us and we can also connect you to Barbara. I'm sure we can answer any questions. We just want people to get their voice out there and get more action taking place. Also as a fun plug, we are very fortunate to have Barbara come to the Legislative Seminar this year in February. So you guys will get to meet her in person if you attend the Legislative Seminar. So she's going to come and speak briefly about the Cogswell Macy Act again so that when you guys go up to the Hill the next day you'll be armed with the information you need to advocate for the act as well. So spoiler, if you want to meet Barbara come to the legislative seminar!
Barbara Raimondo: I can't imagine that they would miss meeting me, I'm sure. [laughter]
Claire Stanley: Well thank you so much for speaking with us today, Barbara. We really appreciate it.
Barbara Raimondo: Well, thank you for having me and I just want to say how much I love working with you guys and thanks for all that you do and I look forward to continuing more productive work together.
Claire Stanley: For sure. So as always, if you have any issues that you want to bring to Clark and my attention, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Like Clark said earlier, you can always go to our website at acb.org, check out what's going on. Please stay in touch. We want to hear from you guys, we want to know what's going on. And Clark, what do we always tell our listeners?
Clark Rachfal: Keep advocating!