EHDI Changes Explained

[Video description can be found below. If you use a screen reader and need to access the English caption file transcript, go to “More…” and click on “Transcript”]

NAD Education Policy Counsel Tawny Holmes explains some of the changes with the new EHDI Re-authorization for today’s Facebook Live discussion at 4p ET. Tawny takes a moment to answer some FAQs.

VIDEO DESCRIPTION AND TRANSCRIPT: Tawny is standing inside the NAD Headquarters lobby. A small white NAD logo appears on bottom right corner.

TAWNY: Hello! That’s right, the EHDI Act passed through U.S. Congress and has been signed into law by the U.S. President which means it can make a difference for deaf and hard of hearing children. While we are excited of what this could mean, we recognize the community’s concerns and questions – I’ll discuss your questions in this video. For example, you may wonder if the NAD was behind all the changes. No, we had many more amendments that we wanted to see happen, but the legislators did not take all of them. The political process is tricky. The legislators consider different ideas to include in the bill. For example, we tried hard to make sure they included ASL and English (plus family’s home language) in the bill but they decided to go with a different phrase, “oral and visual modalities.” Well, this is okay because the word “modalities” mean how you receive and express language. Take English for example, you can read, write, speak and listen; which indicate several different ways. For ASL, you can receive it through viewing videos or a person signing, and express by signing yourself. ASL is a way of expressing your language. So, that seems to be why the legislators decided to use that term. This is common because in the U.S., the political culture is not to put down any specific language in a law, even English. It seems like they prefer to follow that custom.

We’re very excited about the fact that they clearly agreed that language acquisition is important for deaf and hard of hearing children by adding it in several places in the law. This is new and definitely exciting. Now that the law requires language acquisition services, that means deaf mentors will be needed! That was also included in the law. You may wonder where because the act does not include the words “Deaf mentors”. Well, it is in there, just not obvious. Instead the act uses “deaf consumer support.” The term “consumer” that means a deaf person providing support services to a baby that is deaf or hard of hearing. The reason why they used that term may be because there are different terms used for a deaf mentor all over the country so that may be what the legislators tried to do, make sure it was broad enough. That’s two out of three big changes.

The third change is about language acquisition assessments which now are required when the baby grows up. That has never happened before. Does this mean we are all done and should be satisfied? Not quite.

It is important to know that since the bill has been signed by the U.S. President and is now law, there is one more step. The President has to assign the bill to one of many federal agencies that he oversees. The federal agency will then write regulations that will spell out the law and help states understand what exactly they need to do, to follow the new changes. The President will decide which federal agency will do that. After reviewing the law, we believe that it will be the Health Resources and Services Agency (HRSA), which is a smaller agency under the Health and Human Services Department (HHS). When the Secretary of HHS gets the assignment from the President, they will assign this to HRSA staff who will then write the regulations. They will be required to share the draft regulations with the public for us to review, give feedback, and discuss. The government’s process could could be fast or slow, it tends to take from a few months to a year or more.

It is important for us to stay alert and the NAD will be ready to provide feedback to make sure the regulations are clear on including sign language and explaining what language acquisition really means. We encourage you to do the same. You can sign up for the Federal Register email which is a free email service with summaries of actions by different federal agencies. Look for the HRSA and for their announcement inviting public comment on “EHDI regulations”. Keep an eye out for that, and feel free to share your comments with them or with us and we’ll consider including them in our comments. What is important is that we are working together to make sure deaf and hard of hearing children have equal access to language!

Video fades to a soft white background with several different font types showing “NAD” very quickly. Copyright video ends with the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) logo centered. Blue text below the logo appears, “A production of the National Association of the Deaf (copyright) 2017 All Rights Reserved”.

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