On Thursday, November 18, 2010, the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) joined other advocates, legislators, parents, students, and friends to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). This revolutionary law made free appropriate public education a civil right for children who are deaf or hard of hearing and other children with disabilities. Under the IDEA, states are required to ensure that each child has equal access to public education.
At the celebration, hosted by the U.S. Department of Education, several prominent individuals reflected on their fight to enact the IDEA. Opening remarks were made by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who commented on the progress made in the past 35 years and acknowledged that the work is far from done. Senator Tom Harkin, a longtime champion for disability rights, recalled his experience in making the IDEA a law. Representative George Miller, another disability rights supporter, shared his memories of learning about the poor state of special education prior to the IDEA and being determined to change the system for the better.
The event also consisted of two panels. The first panel included leading advocates who played a role in implementing the IDEA and other advocates who are determined to improve the status of special education. The celebration concluded with a group of young professionals who explained how the IDEA had enabled them to be successful today.
The NAD was honored to be included in this celebration of the IDEA. The NAD is committed to advocating for the unique educational needs of deaf and hard of hearing children that the IDEA has not adequately addressed. The event served as a reminder of how dedicated individuals can make a difference and as an inspiration to all of us interested in ensuring our children’s rights to equal education.