Deaf, hard of hearing, and deaf-blind children face a whole host of challenges in their daily lives. These children need to learn to navigate the world, just as their peers do, but also need to learn how to communicate in a world that’s not always set up for them to succeed.
While deaf, hard of hearing, and deaf-blind children deal with innumerable challenges in the world at large, these issues are often amplified when at school. Especially in mainstream public schools that may not have all of the best resources to help students with different needs, deaf, hard of hearing, and deaf-blind students can quickly fall behind their peers academically, find themselves left out of social situations, and feel isolated from others.
Thankfully, new legislation in the state of New Jersey hopes to be one of the first of its kind to better serve deaf, hard of hearing, and deaf-blind students at school, setting them up for a lifetime of success.
In June of 2019, Acting Governor Shelia Oliver of New Jersey signed two new pieces of legislation into law that are designed to promote and improve the education of the deaf, hard of hearing, and deaf-blind students. The two laws established a Deaf Student’s Bill of Rights and a Working Group on Deaf Education, each of which is poised to greatly improve the academic and social lives of some of the most vulnerable students.
As a part of the bill establishing the Working Group on Deaf Education, a twelve-person board within the Department of Education will be appointed by the commissioner of education. This board will help advise the commissioner on important issues pertaining to deaf education to help the state improve its practices.
Additionally, the law mandates that the Department of Education create a resource guide for parents that can guide them as they raise deaf and hard of hearing children from birth to the age of five. This guide will have an abundance of information that families can use to help advocate for their child’s needs as decisions are made about their physical, social, and academic well-being.
The second piece of legislation signed into law explicitly establishes the “Deaf Student’s Bill of Rights” in the state of New Jersey. This bill of rights requires that schools and school districts recognize and respect the rights of deaf, hard of hearing, and deaf-blind students to an education that supports their needs.
These rights include a clear mandate to provide deaf and hard of hearing students with access to direct instruction in whatever mode of communication they prefer, such as American Sign Language. Students must also be provided with early intervention strategies to help them acquire language skills earlier in life. Finally, the law requires that students have opportunities to meet with adult role models and their peers with similar hearing differences.
For the deaf, hard of hearing, and deaf-blind students in the state of New Jersey, this legislation has been a long time coming. Thanks to these new laws, students with different hearing abilities will be able to get the education they need in the communication medium they require, setting them up to receive a top-notch education for a better quality of life.