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Parents & Education Related

Bill of Rights for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children
National Association of the Deaf -


Abundant information can be found in the literature on the status of American deaf education over past years, especially about two important factors: communication access and educational placement for deaf and hard of hearing children. Too often decisions about these factors are made without sufficiently addressing deaf and hard of hearing children’s cognitive, emotional, linguistic, social, and academic development. As a result, a pattern of ignorance and oppression may exist regarding the education of deaf and hard of hearing children in the United States.

In 1988, the Commission on Education of the Deaf (COED) report described the unsatisfactory status of deaf education and recommended specific changes to the President and the Congress. In 1992 and 1994 the U.S. Department of Education published policy guidance on how the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) should be applied in order to ensure an appropriate education for deaf and hard of hearing children. Further, the 1997 and 2004 amendments to IDEA require education programs for deaf and hard of hearing children to consider the language and communication needs of these children.

In 2005, a coalition of national education, parent, and consumer organizations, including the NAD, released National Agenda: Moving Forward on Achieving Educational Equality for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students. The National Agenda sets out a road map for deaf education reform at the national, state, and local levels. Since 2005, a national summit has been held annually for states pursuing reform based on the National Agenda.

Building on these developments, some states have devised an individual communication plan to be used with each deaf and hard of hearing child to ensure that their language and communication needs are met through their education program. Some states have passed a law known as the deaf children’s bill of rights.

Common Elements

Deaf children’s bills of rights have certain elements in common:

Deaf and hard of hearing children’s ability to communicate is a priority.

These bills stress the basic human need for a child to be able to communicate freely with others. The bills usually state that their purpose is to promote understanding of communication needs and not to favor any one particular communication mode or language over another.

Availability of qualified and certified personnel who can communicate directly with deaf and hard of hearing children.

In order for an educational placement to be appropriate, the child must be provided, when appropriate, qualified and certified teachers, psychologists, speech therapists, assessors, administrators, interpreters, and other personnel who understand the unique nature of deafness and are specifically trained to work with deaf and hard of hearing children. These personnel should be proficient in the primary communication and language mode of deaf and hard of hearing children.

Deaf and hard of hearing children shall have an education with a sufficient number of same language mode peers who are of the same age and ability level.

This is designed to ensure a critical mass where there is a sufficient number of peers of the approximate age and ability level with whom deaf and hard of hearing children can communicate directly in the same language.

Deaf and hard of hearing children shall be provided opportunities to interact with deaf and hard of hearing adult role models.

Parents and educators should be informed of the benefits of an education in which deaf and hard of hearing students have deaf and hard of hearing role models or adult mentors available as part of the student’s education experience in school and during extracurricular activities. Children should be provided access to deaf and hard of hearing adults as teachers, mentors, and advocates.

Deaf and hard of hearing children shall be provided equal opportunity to benefit from all services and programs at their schools.

Deaf and hard of hearing children must have direct and appropriate access to all components of the education, including recess, lunch, extracurricular, social, and athletic activities.

Deaf and hard of hearing children shall be assessed appropriately.

Language, communication, academic, and social development should be assessed at an early age and throughout the child’s educational experience. Qualified and certified individuals proficient in the language(s) of the child should perform the assessments.

Unique Provisions

Some legislative bills offer unique provisions for particular issues:


No deaf or hard of hearing child shall be denied the opportunity for instruction in a particular communication mode or language solely because of the child’s remaining hearing, the parents of the child are not fluent in the communication mode or language being taught, or the child has previous experience with some other communication mode or language. The child’s preferred mode should be respected in order to attain highest education possible for that individual in an appropriate environment.

Teachers must demonstrate competency in American Sign Language (ASL) in addition to English language and communication competencies in order to obtain any certification required to teach deaf and hard of hearing students.

Opportunities should be available for interactions that enhance the child’s intellectual, social, emotional and cultural development.

An education should be provided in which the child’s unique communication mode (such as ASL) is respected, utilized, and developed to an appropriate level of proficiency and vocabulary equivalent to that of students of similar ages who are hearing.

There should be provision of early educational intervention to provide for the acquisition of a natural language base whether it be ASL, Speech, Cued Speech, Sign Language, another method, or a combination of methods. There shall be a consistent communication system during the child’s early, critical language acquisition years.

Curriculum and Program Development

The child should have the right to have ASL as one of the academic subjects in his/her educational curriculum when the child’s primary language is ASL.

Consider that the state school for the deaf may be the least restrictive environment for a deaf or hard of hearing child.

Ensure that the extent, content, and purpose of programs and services for deaf and hard of hearing children are developed with the involvement and assistance of deaf and hard of hearing people, parents of deaf and hard of hearing students, and qualified and certified teachers and professionals trained in the education of deaf and hard of hearing students.

Services & Assistance by the Appropriate Educational Agency

Equip deaf and hard of hearing children with appropriate assistive technology across a full spectrum.

Ensure that the parents are enabled to make informed decisions about which educational options are best suited to their child, by receiving and reviewing information about all the educational options provided by the school district and available to the child, as well as about options not provided by the school district.

Establish an outreach program that provides sign language training and assistance and other support services to the parents of a deaf or hard of hearing child.

Take steps to implement the Bill of Rights, including developing materials, disseminating information, and providing workshops, symposia, and other gatherings to ensure that decision makers understand and implement the Act.

Developing a Bill of Rights: What Can You Do?

Ideally, a bill of rights for deaf and hard of hearing children should include the concepts discussed in this article. The enactment of such a bill in your state may be possible by keeping your legislators informed of deaf and hard of hearing education issues, working with your State Association of the Deaf, and maintaining open communication with local, state and national service providers, programs, organizations, agencies, and other appropriate individuals and entities.

Deaf and hard of hearing communities throughout the country should help develop and implement state bills of rights for deaf and hard of hearing children. You should continually educate legislators about the unique needs of deaf and hard of hearing children, including the need for deaf culture and sign language.

Legislators may be more like to support a state bill of rights if education and literacy, and their role in allowing deaf and hard of hearing citizens to become productive citizens, are stressed. Educate your legislators about the educational needs and rights of deaf and hard of hearing children and help them to become knowledgeable and enthusiastic about this cause.

Seize the opportunity to pass legislation that guarantees an appropriate education for deaf and hard of hearing children in all states during our time.

Read the testimony of Barbara Raimondo, Esq., before the North Carolina House Select Committee on Education Reform, explaining the critical importance of DCBRs for deaf and hard of hearing children.

States with a Deaf Children’s Bill of Rights

States with Activity Attempting to Pass a DCBR

Other States Related Activities:

American Sign Language Program, Kapi`olani Community Collegehawaii2
Kapi`olani Community College has a well-established program offering American Sign Languages (ASL) courses. Our Deaf ASL instructors use their natural language, American Sign Language, and the acclaimed Signing Naturally curriculum to guide students through lessons and activities that simulate everyday situations. In class you will learn to tune into a visual culture. Outside class you will have opportunities to meet and interact with members of Hawaii's Deaf communities. Kapi`olani Community College has a beautiful campus located at the foot of Diamond Head crater and it is easily accessible by bus. Experience a journey that expands your horizons! Welcome!

Center on Disability Studies, University of Hawai™i at Manoahawaii2
The Center on Disability Studies (CDS) is a University of Hawai‘i Board of Regents recognized Center focused upon development and conduct of interdisciplinary education/training, research/demonstration and evaluation, and university and community service. CDS consists of several focused Centers and Programs that reflect the mission and vision of the Center on Disability Studies

Children with Special Needs Branch, Baby HEARS Project, DOHhawaii2
Baby HEARS Project: 
Children with Special Health Needs Branch(CSHNB) is working to assure that all children and youth with special health care needs (CSHCN) will reach optimal health, growth, and development, by improving access to a coordinated system of family-centered health care services and improving outcomes, through systems development, assessment, assurance, education, collaborative partnerships, and family support. Early Hearing Detection and Intervention.

Community Schools for Adults, DOE (sign language classes)hawaii2
Community schools, sometimes known as adult education schools, offer beginning and intermediate American Sign Language classes.

Hands and Voices, Hawai`i Chapter (provisional)hawaii2
Amanda Kaahanui, Parent 
National Website: 
Hands & Voices is a nationwide non-profit organization dedicated to supporting families and their children who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as the professionals who serve them. We are a parent-driven, parent/professional collaborative group that is unbiased towards communication modes and methods. Our diverse membership includes those who are deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing impaired and their families who communicate orally, with signs, cue, and/or combined methods. We exist to help our children reach their highest potential.

Hawai`i School for the Deaf and the Blind (HSDB)hawaii2
The Hawai`i School for the Deaf and Blind is a public education facility that provides services to the islands' deaf, blind, and deaf-blind students. One of the main functions of HSDB is providing an ASL immersion program that follows the tenets of a bi-cultural, bi-lingual philosophy. Both, the ways of the hearing and the Deaf are respected and cherished here, along with the use of both languages, English and ASL. The end result of the program is to produce individuals who are confident participants in both, the Deaf and hearing worlds.

Lead-K in Hawaii



Language Equality and Acquisition for Deaf Kids is about ensuring that all Deaf and hard of hearing children are Kindergarten-Ready by the age of five.

National Deaf Education Project
NDEP was established in 1998 to articulate and work toward the development of a quality communication and language-driven educational delivery system for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. The founder and director of NDEP is Lawrence Siegel, J.D.. The Board of the NDEP is comprised of representatives of Gallaudet University , the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, the National Association of the Deaf, the American Society for Deaf Children, the Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools for the Deaf, and the Convention of the American Instructors of the Deaf.

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