Freida: Many parents arrive to the school system and later in life say “I wish I had known this when my child was younger, I wish I had known what other options were available to us.
Annie: I look back and I look at all the stuff that I’ve learned during this journey while my child was growing, and if I knew back then what I’m learning right now or I’m learning now later in life, my child’s life would be completely different. It would be completely different. All of that lost time you will never ever get back.
Freida: The two of us are here today at the House Office building where they're holding a House health policy and committee hearing this morning. They will be reading our Bills. The two crucial bills include, Bill 5158 empower, and Bill 5159, the Deaf child education bill of rights. Those are the two being introduced today, and we're here to testify and support these two bills.
These bills are important for our Deaf, DeafBlind, and hard of hearing children to improve their education.
Annie: Many Legislators are becoming more aware of the issues our community is facing here in our state. It's wonderful to see them highlighting these serious issues that many are facing including Deaf, DeafBlind and hard of hearing children as well as their families.
Martin: I think they’re very simple bills and I think they’re very common sense bills and I think that they’re the result of a lot of consultation within the Deaf DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing community. We all have our voice and I mean that in the figurative sense, we have our um, our um, ability to communicate and to express our feelings on a particular issue, particular subject matter. I really do appreciate the support and the efforts of all of the folks in the Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing community, it’s been an enlightening and educational experience for me, a hearing person.
Janel: To make things better for our families, our kids, and hopefully that the state will eventually be able to provide resources to the schools and make them accountable for meeting the kids-our kids needs and what’s appropriate for them to succeed. Helen Keller once was asked whether she would prefer to be blind, or deaf, and she said she would prefer to be blind. Why is that? It’s because being blind separates you from things. But being deaf can separate you from people. And in today’s age we really want our kids to have that language so that they can have relationships with one another, and that they, too, can be successful.
Teddy: When I started school, I started noticing many of my friends were confronted with challenges because their parents didn't understand their language needs. They were struggling and falling behind because some teachers weren't able to communicate with their students. So I feel it's really important today because we're not meeting their needs. If a child is falling behind or their communication needs are not being met and we have a bill already established, parents will be able to utilize it to find information and resources to fight for their child's rights. Without that, it makes it tough. That's why this bill is needed.
Ann: You know we would really like to see the hard of hearing community support the bill. Um, I think the reason, the basic reason is because of the choice that is given, and that no communication mode is chosen or made more prominent or more important than another. Because many people who are hard of hearing don’t use sign language, it doesn’t fit into our lifestyle, we don’t have people to use it with, and even if we’ve learned it, we often forget it simply because we don’t use it.
Freida: Following this bill, we will have more hearings throughout the House of Representatives and the Senate. The last step would be having the Governor sign it. Then the MDE state superintendent will start setting up an advisory committee. That committee will start developing various resources and language assessment in both ASL and English so parents have all the information with equal access.
Annie: Many Legislators have never encountered anyone from our community before. It's important that they hear from you and that you're involved to ensure your voice is heard. If a hearing takes place, you should submit a statement or come and learn more about the bill. In order to allow our voices to be heard, that's really important. I also think the only way change will happen is if we all collaborate and work together with the same goal, to see children grow and develop in this state.