Are Least Restrictive Environments Actually Most Restrictive Environment In Disguise for Deaf Students?
As of 2004, the definition of ‘least restrictive environment’ as written in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): “To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled, and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.”
Essentially what that means is that the law views public schools as the “least restrictive environment.” But we have to remember the majority of laws that were passed have been written by hearing people, with little or no input from Deaf people. To hearing people, public schools are least restrictive in the sense that hearing people do not need to worry about accessibility issues or accommodations. Can we say the same about Deaf students? Are public schools truly “least restrictive environment” for Deaf students? Many hearing legislators, hearing administrators, and the hearing society want to believe that Deaf students can attend a public school and do just fine, as long as the Deaf student has cochlear implant and is hearized to the fullest extent possible. Bills have been proposed with this belief in mind, such as House Bill 1367 in Indiana and Assembly Bill 2072 in California, for example. If schools for the deaf can be closed down as result of such bills, it’s a nice benefit in eyes of most legislators, administrators and society. Why waste money on schools for the deaf when it can be funneled toward public schools? Read the rest of this entry →