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Education Equity: The Importance of the IDEA Act & Cogswell Macy Act

A young African American girl is sittingin her wheelchair in an elementary school classroom with her classmates. The teacher is leaning next to her smiling.

Beauty Buzz/Blog Biz | Importance IDEA Act & Cogswell Macy Act


Education Equity: The Importance of the IDEA Act Cogswell Macy Act

By: Christine Bharosi 

Ever since the passing of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) in 1990, a slew of other legislation have followed to ensure people with disabilities are given an equal chance in key areas of development. One of these key areas is education.

Disability in all its forms can have a significant impact on a person’s life, and learning is no exception. This is why legislation like the Cogswell-Macy Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act are so important. They provide guidance and enforcement of rules to make sure that fundamental education is on an even field. Let’s take a closer look at how these laws make such an impact on students’ lives. 

What is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act?

Paper with title Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA Act)

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or Pub.L. 101-476 is a law that gives access to a free and appropriate public education to eligible students with disabilities throughout the United States. It was passed in 1975 under the JFK administration when advocacy groups began to form and protest the inequality. This law also provides guidelines on how states and agencies provide intervention, special education, and related services to over 7.5 million students as young as 2 years old. 

Another aspect that this law covers is monetary funding for special education in the form of grants. IDEA covers two types of grants, formula grants and discretionary grants. Formula grants are what states use to support special education and related services, including interventions. Discretionary grants cover more areas including higher education institutions and non-profit organizations to promote research, demonstration, and development to better serve disability communities. 

Since the IDEA law was passed, it has made a huge impact on students with disabilities across the spectrum. Once congress passed the legislation, that safeguarded millions of students’ right to a free education at least within the United States. Schools were also incentivized to comply with this law if they wanted federal funding. The protections from the IDEA Act decree that all schools must accommodate curricula to meet the needs of students with disabilities, and these protections cover students from infancy to age 21. 

What is the Cogswell-Macy Act?

The Cogswell-Macy Act or H.R. 1959 was named after Alice Cogswell, the first deaf student to be educated in the U.S and Hellen Keller’s iconic teacher, Anne Sullivan Macy. The bill was introduced as a way to bolster the Individuals with Disabilities Act to improve education for students with various disabilities, including deaf, blind, deaf-blind, and visually impaired. This law would hold states more accountable to create, implement, emforce, monitor, and guide educators on how best to facilitate learning around the limitations these disabilities present. 

Some examples of this increased accountability include ramping up U.S Department of Education compliance with these laws, improving educational outcomes for deaf-blind students by updating relevant language and services, and assisting parents of students with disabilities by keeping them in the loop with the Department of Education. 

Why They Are Important 

The IDEA Act paved the way of guaranteeing that students with disabilities were given the same right to an education with dignity as their able-bodied peers. In the time since it’s passing into law, more and more students with learning, speech, and developmental disabilities have been graduating and entering higher education and the workforce. This is especially important because at least 13% of student enrollment is made up of disabled young people, with at least 95% of them getting an education in public schools.

If the IDEA Act wasn’t passed, millions of young people would still be blocked from pursuing an education, a fundamental human right. The Cogswell-Macy Act is being presented as a facelift to the IDEA Act, especially as technology continues to rise and the criteria for having a disability becomes more nuanced. Having both pieces of legislation active will only bring more positive outcomes to students with disabilities as they navigate their state’s school system. 

Connecting With Christine

Christine’s Bio

Christine Bharosi, is an incoming graduate student at Fordham University. With a background in psychology, she’s currently working to become a cybercrime analyst and has gained a new passion for data. 

In September, she’ll be starting her first master’s degree. It’s a new challenge, for her but she’s excited to tackle it. When Christine is not studying, her hobbies include gaming, reading, and watching movies.

Image Descriptions:

  • Header image is a photo of a young African American girl is sitting in her wheelchair in an elementary school classroom with her classmates. The teacher is leaning next to her smiling.
  • Paper with title Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

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