NAD Adopts New Position Statements and Model Bills

On June 18, 2014, the Board of Directors for the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) reviewed, approved, and adopted position statements designed to satisfy a mandate and a priority set by our Council of Representatives at the 2012 NAD Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. The mandate was for the NAD to develop a strategy to ensure no deaf or hard of hearing child is deprived of language acquisition from birth, and the priority sought to develop a toolkit to promote the development of state-level coordinators of mental health services for deaf and hard of hearing people.

Language Acquisition Mandate

For the mandate on language deprivation, the task was assigned to the Education Policy Expert Group under the NAD Public Policy Committee, headed by Alexis Kashar, Esq. The Education Policy Expert Group is chaired by Sean Virnig, Ph.D. and comprised of Tom Humphries, Ph.D., and Melissa Herzig, Ed.D. To properly frame the bill, the Education Policy Expert Group developed a Language Acquisition Position Statement that compiled the latest research showing the need of and  benefit to every deaf and hard of hearing child to have visual learning and visual language, with or without the use of hearing aids and cochlear implants. This position statement demonstrates scientific proof that learning a visual language such as American Sign Language (ASL) does not interfere with the acquisition of the English language or with any auditory learning. With this position statement, the Public Policy Committee and NAD Headquarters developed a Model Language Acquisition Legislative Bill designed for state governments to develop services and programs that will ensure every deaf and hard of hearing child has visual learning and visual language from birth. As with any model bill, changes and strategies will need to be tailored for every state given that the government structure and legislative process for each state. The NAD is aware that other groups such as Language Equality and Acquisition for Deaf Kids (LEAD-K) may be developing their own legislative bill in this area. The NAD is committed to collaborating with all partners to promote the best possible legislative bill on behalf of deaf and hard of hearing children and the posting of this Model Legislative Bill is a beginning towards this critically important goal.

Mental Health State Coordinator Priority

To respond to the priority on the Mental Health State Coordinator Toolkit, the Mental Health Expert Group, chaired by John Gournaris, Ph.D., also under the NAD Public Policy Committee, developed a Mental Health State Coordinator Position Statement setting forth a clear rationale for each state to have a state-wide coordinator of mental health services for deaf and hard of hearing individuals. To achieve this goal, the Mental Health Expert Group amended the Model Mental Health for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Individuals Bill of Rights Act to incorporate the need for a state coordinator of mental health services. In addition, the NAD advocacy statement to promote such a model bill in their respective states has also been amended to reflect this added provision on coordinators. The NAD Board approved and adopted both the amended Model Bill and the amended statement in support of the bill. The bill and statement of support along with the position statement together represent a toolkit that deaf and hard of hearing advocates and state associations of the deaf can utilize to create and improve mental health services in their states.

The NAD Board appreciates the hard work of the Public Policy Committee and its Education Policy Expert Group and Mental Health Expert Group in getting these mandate and priority completed. The NAD looks forward to collaborating with our partners and allies to help enact the model bills in all 50 states. Questions and feedback on these issues are welcome, please use our contact form to share your input.