February 24, 2009

Presidential speech reminded me of one thing....

Letter that Dr. Tucker of the Maryland School for the Deaf (our GUY here in Columbia) wrote to then President-Elect Obama...letter was long but here are some key points that stuck out to me:

Your theme, “We are One”, has resonated throughout the Deaf community. As you know, our community is not at all homogeneous. There are deaf people of every social group, age, and color. A wonderful microcosm of the Deaf community may be found at Gallaudet University, the only liberal arts college in the world geared for deaf and hard of hearing students. You may like to know that it was President Abraham Lincoln who signed the Gallaudet College charter in 1864.
The American Deaf community has had a long and proud history in our country. Our fight for basic civil rights has been well documented in numerous books and videos. Perhaps the most recent popular documentary on the history of Deaf people is “Through Deaf Eyes”.

In the past 50 years, deaf and hard of hearing individuals in this country have made great strides in becoming full participants of our society. Laws such as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act have outlawed discrimination against deaf people and ensured deaf people everywhere access to information through sign language interpreters and captioning. Although thousands of deaf people continue to receive public assistance or are underemployed, more and more deaf people today are obtaining higher degrees and entering the highly skilled work force.......

The greatest challenge for deaf children as a special education group today continues to be the misapplication of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) law. The major thrust of the law is that all disabled children be placed in regular classrooms. For many special education students, this is the least restrictive environment. However, for many deaf students, this local neighborhood school placement is the most restrictive environment.
Deaf students everywhere need access to classroom instruction which is fully and naturally accessible to their eyes and ears. That is, all students must learn academic subjects in a “maximized learning environment”. Often this means a teacher with fluent American Sign Language and English skills and a critical mass of deaf and hard of hearing peers who sign American Sign Language and speak English.
There are thousands of deaf students today in public schools where they are the only deaf student in the whole school. Often they experience the dreaded “Velcro Syndrome”. Students are unable to fully interact with their peers or their teachers as they must follow their interpreter around all day. This interpreter is the child’s teacher, teacher aide, counselor, and best friend. This experience of isolation is numbing and demeaning. The “least restrictive environment” definition in IDEA needs to be changed for deaf students so that their educational placements are language-driven, not location-driven.

I agree with Dr. Tucker because I know MY child has a special case since he is deaf but has a cochlear implant...my child receives services on both sides of the aisle as both a deaf child and a hearing child...as I personally have to move away from under the protective wing of the folks at Early Intervention (not by choice), I hope that President Obama will not cut budgets that affect these services that we receive.....Fortunately I live in a County that has many outstanding educational services for deaf and hard of hearing children in place but all that could change at any time as we see the nation having to take budget cuts and having to reduce spending until the nation gets back on track to recovery...we'll be watching closely along with the folks over at the ASDC (American Society for Deaf Children), AG Bell, Deaf Nation, ASHA and countless other Deaf organizations- as always, I thank Mary Anne for always passing on great information and making us aware of issues that effect the Deaf community as a whole!

1 comment:

The Inque Spot said...

I left an award for you on my blog!!!

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