Introducing the Anne Sullivan Macy Act

What Is the Anne Sullivan Macy Act?

Mark Twain immortalized Helen Keller's beloved teacher, Anne Sullivan Macy, with the moniker "the miracle worker." Though meant as well-deserved praise, his words reflect the persistent misconception that educating individuals with disabilities is an extraordinary feat. In the 21st Century, we know the work of teaching children with disabilities occurs when committed and qualified special educators are properly prepared and supported to practice their professions. The Anne Sullivan Macy Act promotes the delivery and accountability of providing high quality special education, and related services, to students with visual disabilities.

Why Is It Important?

Children with visual disabilities are among the highest performing students with disabilities in terms of academic achievement, and are among the least employed. It is clear that America's special education system must develop stronger supports for the unique academic and related learning needs of students with visual disabilities. These are children who will only succeed when taught critical visual-disability-specific skills by highly-trained professionals. When teachers do not know or understand the skills their students need to learn, they cannot effectively teach those skills.

When children with visual disabilities only have access to general special education teachers, and are denied access to a free and appropriate public education, they are not taught the full spectrum of unique visual-disability-specific skills they will need to achieve independence. Specialized educational areas needed by students with visual disabilities include: communication and productivity (including braille instruction, and assistive technology proficiency inclusive of low vision devices where appropriate); self-sufficiency and social interaction (including orientation and mobility, self determination, sensory efficiency, socialization, recreation and fitness, and independent living skills); and age-appropriate career education.

The lack of access to education programs that address their specific learning needs has dire consequences. For example, despite legislative efforts to ensure student's access to appropriate literacy media, it remains clear that few children who should be receiving instruction in braille are actually receiving it. This lack of braille instruction contributes to the inability of graduates with visual disabilities to participate fully in the workforce. To ensure children with visual disabilities are provided with appropriate educational access we propose a series of clarifications and provision that have coalesced into the Anne Sullivan Macy Act.

Highlights of the Anne Sullivan Macy Act

  • Enhances accountability for the provision of educational services to children with visual disabilities.
  • Establishes a national collaborative resource center on visual disabilities and educational excellence to supplement the current national availability of:
  • Ongoing professional development of teachers and related services personnel specifically trained to work with children with visual impairments including those who have additional co-existing disabilities.
  • Fosters research supporting the development and evaluation of effective and innovative assessments and instructional methodologies consistent with the unique learning needs of students with visual disabilities including those who have additional co-existing disabilities