CAROLINE: Hello everyone! I’m a staff attorney, focusing on education here at the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). I want to explain an exciting opportunity for you to be involved in supporting deaf and hard of hearing students all over America. In case you’re not aware, the NAD is involved with the Child First campaign. That campaign has been advocating a new bill called the Alice Cogswell Act. Currently, a federal special education law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) sets rules to help students with disabilities access schools in America. We noticed that some of the rules do not adequately meet the needs of deaf and hard of hearing students. We want to amend the IDEA to better support deaf and hard of hearing students by improving their access to communication, training, and other services so they can succeed in school and beyond. If you want to learn more about the Alice Cogswell Act, have a look at this website, which explains it in more detail. Keep in mind that the Alice Cogswell Act is not law yet. We do not know when Congress will be voting on this bill. We must be diligent in contacting members of Congress and to convince them of the need for the Alice Cogswell Act to become law. We can do this with your help! We need you to contact your Congressional representatives and explain your support for the Alice Cogswell Act and for deaf and hard of hearing students. Through your efforts, we hope to persuade a Congress member to sponsor this bill so that all of Congress will consider this bill, vote on it, and make it the law of the land. Do you want to do something? Get involved? You can! Flood Congress with calls and emails so they take note of this bill. Reach your Congress members with the help of this website. You’ll just need to type in your zip code and the website will provide you a list of the two Senators and the Representative for your area. The list will show a phone number, a fax number, and a contact form for sending an email. Pick whichever contact option you prefer, then go ahead and do it! I have a few tips to share before you call. First, if you call through a video relay service, ask the operator to not connect immediately. Take a moment to explain the purpose of your call. When the operator understands everything, then go ahead and connect the call. Second, keep your message brief and hit these key points: (1) you live in their district; (2) you support a special law titled the Alice Cogswell Act because it is very important for deaf and hard of hearing students; and (3) if you like, add your own personal story perhaps share your experience attending a deaf school or a mainstream school or that you have deaf/hard of hearing children, and so on. When you’re done, hang up. It’s up to you if you want to call them again. Third, keep in mind that when you call, you might not directly connect with your Senator. Instead, you might connect with the front desk or a staff member. Don’t worry, go ahead and tell them about your support for the bill. They’ll take your message and share it with the Senator or Representative you called. Your message will get through! Now that I’ve explained everything, I hope you’ll roll up your sleeves and get to contacting Congress! Also, it is important to share this with your friends. Messages from many people are better than from only one person. We need many of you to show your support to Congress. So go ahead and call, email, tweet, post on Facebook or Instagram, and declare the importance of the Alice Cogswell Act. We need your help to support deaf and hard of hearing students all over America and we can do this if we improve the IDEA with new rules to support their needs. Thank you.
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