April Policy News Round-Up

New accessibility regulations are released, literacy conversations continue in the Senate, and student mental health legislation is introduced. Learn more about what NCLD did in April.

The Justice Department Improves Digital Accessibility Requirements

The Justice Department issued regulations through a “final rule” to ensure and strengthen the accessibility of web content and mobile apps for people with disabilities. The rule, issued under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), clarifies the obligations and requirements of state and local governments and other public entities to make their websites and mobile apps accessible and accommodating to everyone, including those with disabilities. This rule marks a major step in ensuring equal access to digital resources and recognizes the importance of digital accessibility in modern society. As more services, information, and communication move online, it is essential that everyone can access and use these resources without barriers. By enforcing this rule, the Justice Department seeks to promote equal access and participation for individuals with disabilities in various aspects of life, including government services, public accommodations, and other online activities. This move aligns with the ADA’s overarching goal of eliminating discrimination and ensuring equal opportunities for all individuals with disabilities. 

Cassidy Literacy Paper Response

NCLD submitted a response to a white paper published by Ranking Member Bill Cassidy of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee titled “Preventing a Lost Generation: Facing a Critical Moment for Students’ Literacy.” In NCLD’s response, we offered three overarching recommendations: 

  1. Increase funding for key federal programs, as well as education research. 
  2. Closely monitor state-level legislation and progress after adopting new policies or laws on the science of reading or dyslexia, universal screening for dyslexia, and other early identification and intervention methods. 
  3. Emphasize the critical role that educator preparation programs can play in ensuring that educators are well-equipped to implement evidence-based reading instructional practices. 

Read NCLD’s full response to Senator Cassidy’s white paper here

Creating Access and Resources in Education (CARE) for Student Mental Health Act

The Creating Access and Resources in Education (CARE) for Student Mental Health Act was introduced on March 21 in the Senate with bipartisan support from Senators John Cornyn (TX-R), Thom Tillis (NC-R), Maggie Hassan (NH-D), Jon Tester (MT-D), and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-I). The bill calls for key improvements to the U.S. Department of Education’s mental health grant programs. It ensures that more opportunities and resources are provided so that historically disadvantaged districts can access resources and hire critical mental health personnel. The CARE for Student Mental Health Act clarifies and streamlines existing grant programs to make them more efficient and accessible to the districts that need them, which has broad impacts on school communities and especially students with disabilities, who especially benefit from access to trained mental health professionals in schools. 


State Spotlight—Maryland Prison Education Delivery Reform Commission Bill Passes State House and Senate

The Maryland State Legislature passed a bill establishing a Prison Education Delivery Reform Commission, which would “develop recommendations relating to education and its impact on the criminal justice system.” The bill text specifically indicates that the needs of individuals with learning disabilities should be considered as part of the conversation for the Commission and calls for the addition of advocates for “individuals with learning disabilities and those from marginalized communities” to be members of the Commission group. This effort is important for improving the conditions of youth with disabilities involved in the juvenile justice system, who are disproportionately impacted by the system compared to their non-disabled peers. 

In Case You Missed It

  • As part of AI Literacy Day, NCLD unveiled exclusive panel discussions on Artificial Intelligence, its implications for today’s school systems, and the needs of students with learning and/or attention differences. Leaders in psychology, education, and engineering discussed AI’s advantages and disadvantages for those with learning disabilities. Watch the panels at the links below:
    • Discussion#1: The Advantages and Disadvantages of AI for Individuals with Learning Disabilities
    • Discussion #2: Ethics, Safety, and Future of AI for Individuals With and Without Learning Disabilities
  • Principal Researcher Dr. Saashya Rodrigo was featured as a special guest on a recent “Designing Education” podcast episode with The GRAD Partnership. Dr. Rodrigo discussed effective strategies that prioritize inclusivity and accessibility in schools.  

A “Dear Colleague” letter circulated in Congress supporting funding for learning disabilities research efforts in the upcoming appropriations season. Rep. Julia Brownley (CA-26-D), Co-Chair of the Dyslexia Caucus, led the letter. Thank you, Rep. Brownley!