Glancing towards her parents at the reception Wednesday, Viall said, “It’s really a personal issue for me. I’ve watched my further struggle his entire life with hearing loss. . . . So I wanted to bring that to the Hill and hopefully bridge some of the divide between the deaf community and their members.”
Viall has worked with the Gallaudet Capitol Hill internship program, which began in 2010, to recruit students for congressional internships.
Frances Marquez, an associate professor of government at Gallaudet and legislative director for Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., said she encourages her students to intern on the Hill. “I tell my students if you’re not at the table when policies are made, your community is not going to be involved.”
The caucus also has a broader mission of facilitating communication between members of Congress and their deaf constituents and raising awareness about issues important to the deaf community, specifically education.
“I know that my School for the Deaf in California serves only a fraction of the number of students that could benefit from that education,” Takano said. “We’ll need to increase the support for those school districts that also serve deaf students in the mainstream context.”
The California Democrat joined Reps. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, and Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., on legislation dubbed The Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act, which is intended to strengthen the 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and improve ways to identify and serve children with disabilities.
One deaf staffer said such education is key to more participation by deaf people on the Hill.
Greg Randall, Stockman’s legislative correspondent, told CQ Roll Call, “I think it would be really good if people just knew more about the language and the culture. That would lead to a higher level of understanding about deaf people. . . . And I think just through that exposure, things would improve.”