After several proposals from Deaf educators, parents of deaf children, and advocates in 2015, North Dakota’s Legislature passed the House Bill 1366: Deaf and HOH Children’s Bill of Rights.
HB 1366 went into effect this year, requiring all hearing schools to provide accommodations for deaf children who attend their schools. If they cannot do so, then they are required by law to contact the North Dakota School for the Deaf for assistance.
The bill itself addresses a major problem in North Dakota: the majority of the state is rural with extremely limited access to resources for deaf/hard of hearing children in education. This causes a severe lack of social and educational development in deaf children and those children are forced to catch up with the rest of the world as adults after moving to less rural areas. Several parents and deaf individuals showed up to the legislature meetings to give their testimonies and arguments on why the bill should pass; they showed North Dakota’s House that it is not only the deaf children who are affected but their families as well.
A woman who went through childhood without her preferred support gave her testimony:
“I work in Mandan; I was born deaf and raised on a dairy farm. I have a deaf brother and a hard of hearing sister. I was sent to St. Louis Missouri where I was taught to speak and lip read. Sign language was viewed negatively then. I was there for 11 years and didn’t like it at all. I then transferred to Lemoore with my mother, but I didn’t understand and was isolated and lonely. The coaches and team players left me out there also. I didn’t know sign language was here. I was a good student but it wasn’t easy. I wanted to get away right after high school. I went to college and found all these services. My mom told me sign language was bad but once I learned it I am so much better off. Please pass this bill.” –Sharon Tot-Tyler
Mary McCarvel O’Conner is a strong advocate for the deaf and this is what she presented that persuaded the legislators to pass the bill when challenged with the current federal ADA law:
We weren’t trying to require anything that is above of what idea already requires them to have. Resources to highly qualified teachers are a struggle to get. For them to hire a teacher to help one child we won’t be able to help with that. I was saying with the early intervention, the department of human services is already providing that. With the deaf role model and pairs[sic] with the North Dakota school for the deaf we believe that we could set up something through skype that would help mentor them.
The bill currently lists:
- Early intervention is to be provided as early as possible, starting at the age of 3. This includes access to language resources, role models, and cultural interactions. If these cannot be provided by the school’s human resources, then the North Dakota School of the Deaf should be contacted for assistance.
- “Qualified teachers, interpreters, and resource personnel, who communicate effectively with the child in the child’s mode of communication; and placement best suited to the child’s needs such as social, emotional, cultural, age-related, hearing loss, academic level, mode of communication, style of learning, motivational level, and family support needs.”
School for the Deaf
- The School of the Deaf shall “make information available to parents of children who are deaf or hearing impaired; and provide awareness information to the public concerning medical, cultural, and linguistic issues of deafness and hearing loss.”
FOR ALL PUBLIC AND DEAF SCHOOLS
- All information and resources regarding deaf education, culture, language, and lifestyle are to be made available and accessible to parents and families of deaf/hard of hearing children. Both the mainstream schools and School for the Deaf are required to work together to make sure the parents and families get this information and access to resources.
For the bill in its entirety, go here: North Dakota Legislature and House Bills