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Approaching Equality: Education of the Deaf.

In August 1986, Congress adopted the Education of the Deaf Act (EDA) of 1986 (Public Law 99-371 ). Within that law, the Commission on Education of the Deaf (COED) was established to make a study of the quality of infant and early childhood education programs and of elementary, secondary, postsecondary, adult, and continuing education furnished to deaf people. The Commission submitted its report to Congress and the President in February 1988.

Dr. Frank Bowe, author of this book, presents a very clear and systematic approach to evaluating the progress of Congress and the U.S. Department of Education (ED) in addressing the 52 recommendations submitted by COED in 1988. In addition, Dr. Bowe also provides some "Inside-the-Beltway" close-ups of political/departmental maneuvering which can be of interest and use to those wishing to pursue implementation of remaining recommendations.

Each of the 52 recommendations are reviewed and evaluated in terms of the progress made by being listed as: Accomplished; Significantly Accomplished; Partly Accomplished; No Action; or Obviated (recommendation outdated). These recommendations are separated into seven categories, each encompassing at least one chapter. These categories include: Prevention and Early Identification, Elementary and Secondary Education (two chapters), Post-secondary Education, Research, Professional Standards, Technology, and Other.

Chapter nine, "Where Do We Go From Here?", addresses each of the seven categories from the perspective of what needs to be done to meet the goals of each COED recommendation in that area. The Elementary and Secondary Education category is reported to have the lowest level of success in having recommendations implemented. Only 1 out of 14 recommendations have been rated as significantly accomplished or better. Suggestions are offered as to how this and other areas of concern might be approached by advocates for improving education for deaf people.

I regret that Congress neglected to include a definition of the term "deaf" in the general provisions of the Act, resulting in a good deal of confusion in the COED report, Toward Equality. It was equally regrettable that the Commission adopted the following broad definition of the term deaf: "all persons with hearing impairments, including those who are hard of hearing, those deafened later in life, those who are profoundly deaf, etc." Dr. Bowe uses the same definition in Approaching Equality, which makes sense since the latter is a progress report on the recommendations put forth in the former. Nevertheless, it makes the definition no more acceptable or palatable.

In a letter to Senator Tom Harkin in April 1988, Howard E. Stone, Sr., Founder and Executive Director of Self Help for Hard of Hearing People, Inc., stated, "The Commissioners' definition of the term Deaf is as inclusive as it is unusual. Having made a broad definition, the Commission then proceeded to focus on the problems of culturally (or attitudinally) deaf children." Mr. Stone's concerns are substantiated by such statements in both Toward Equality and Approaching Equality as follows: "Deaf children seem to reach a 'plateau' at third-grade reading comprehension levels"; "Deafness is a low-incidence disability"; "... the fact remains that the field of deaf education still does not know much about how deaf children learn language"; "COED estimated the drop-out rates among deaf college students at 79 percent at AA degree programs and 71 percent at BA degree programs."

All of the above quotations are valid for what should be defined as "Deaf" children, those children whose development of communication skills occurs primarily through visual means since their auditory system does not function well enough for speech comprehension, even with optimum sound amplification. However, by adding hard of hearing children to the group of "Deaf" children, the above listed quotations are totally inaccurate. To add to the confusion, the author continually uses terms such as "deaf and hard of hearing" and "deaf and hearing impaired" throughout the book. If one chooses to read and use this text with the above definition of "Deaf" in mind as the population being addressed, it is likely that Approaching Equality will be an informative and valuable resource.

With all said and done, this book is an excellent update on what is current law and policy related to the education of people who are truly deaf, not hard of hearing or late deafened. It should be required reading for administrators, teachers, and students in deafness education programs, as well as parents of "Truly Deaf" children and their advocates. As for those concerned about education of the large majority of hearing impaired children and adults who are not "Truly Deaf," but who are similarly confronted by numerous barriers to equal or excellent education, the EDA goes up for reauthorization in 1992. Perhaps a Commission on the Education of Persons with Hearing Loss can be established with a majority of hard of hearing and late deafened adults serving this time.

Approaching Equality, Education of the Deaf Frank G. Bowe. T.J. Publishers, Inc., 817 Silver Spring Avenue, Suite 206, Silver Spring, MD 20910. 112 pages. Softcover, $12.95.

Mr. Kosovich, who has experienced progressive hearing loss from early childhood, is a Vocational Rehabilitation Program Specialist with the Deafness and Communicative Disorders Branch of the Rehabilitation Services Administration "in Washington, DC.
COPYRIGHT 1992 U.S. Rehabilitation Services Administration
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Author:Kosovich, George N.
Publication:American Rehabilitation
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1992
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