Washington (October 23, 2019) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) today reintroduced bipartisan legislation that will strengthen the Individuals with Disabilities Education (IDEA) Act to ensure that visual and hearing-impaired students receive the best education possible. The Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act would improve the effectiveness of education and services for students who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, visually impaired, and deaf-blind. The legislation will also enhance reporting and evaluation measures for special education in each state, increase training for teachers and other special education professionals, and reaffirm the Department of Education’s mission and responsibility to ensure an accessible and quality education for all students.


This bill is named after Alice Cogswell, the first deaf student that was formally educated in the United States, and Anne Sullivan Macy, Helen Keller’s famous teacher. Representatives Matt Cartwright (PA-08) and David McKinley (WV-01) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.


“A quality education is a right that all students deserve in the 21st century,” said Senator Markey. “Every student deserves the chance to exercise their skills in the classroom, and it is our duty to make sure every student has the resources they need to achieve that goal. The Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act will improve access to personalized services and effective education for deaf, blind, and deaf-blind students across the nation. In Massachusetts, Perkins School for the Blind has been a shining example for providing accessible high-quality education, and this bill will help ensure students around the country are provided similar opportunities. I am proud to join Senator Capito in reintroducing the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act.”


“The Cogswell-Macy Act would help support deaf and blind students and their parents with their specialized educational needs,” said Senator Capito. “Students deserve this personalized care to reach their fullest potential. I’m proud to join Senator Markey in this legislation that will help thousands of students across the country.”

A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.


Specifically, the Cogswell-Macy Act would:

  • Require states to identify and evaluate children who are visually and hearing impaired so that appropriate services can be delivered to each student, and report instances when they fall short
  • Help parents and educators stay informed and up-to-date through written policy guidance released regularly from the Department of Education
  • Encourage states to plan for and commit to specialized instruction for all deaf, hard of hearing, blind, visually impaired, and deaf-blind students, provided by trained personnel
  • Establish the Anne Sullivan Macy Center of Vision Loss and Educational Excellence within the Department of Education to function as a national resource to better support students with visual disabilities


“School systems have been required to appropriately serve deaf and hard of hearing students since IDEA was passed, however, many gaps in services remain,” said David Geeslin, President, Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf (CEASD).  “Deaf and hard of hearing students can achieve to high levels when their language, communication, and educational needs are addressed. The Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act will help ensure that personnel and resources are available to support the success of these students.”


“In our country of opportunity for all, the Cogswell-Macy Act is a powerful bill that truly ensures opportunity and success for all children particularly those who are blind or visually impaired and those who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as those who are deafblind,” said Howard Rosenblum, Executive Director, National Association of the Deaf. “The National Association of the Deaf asks all legislators to join in a bipartisan show of support for all these children.”


“We support the Cogswell-Macy Act because it includes language which will establish Interveners as related service providers in IDEA,” said The National DeafBlind Intervener Initiative (NDBII) and The National Intervener Association (NIA). "We believe that children and youth with deafblindness have the right to access information about people and things in the educational environment that are necessary for learning, interaction and overall progress, and we believe that this access can be provided by the services of interveners who have specialized training in deafblindness and who work one-to-one with students who are deafblind."

“Nearly two centuries of working with students who are blind, deafblind and visually impaired has reinforced Perkins’ unwavering belief in this truth: every child can learn,” said Dave Power, president and CEO of Perkins School for the Blind. “We applaud Senator Markey for his leadership and endorsement of the Cogswell-Macy Act. Perkins proudly joins him and fellow supporters in insisting on greater accountability and resources in support of the education and unlimited potential of these students.”