Congressmen Pocan, Cole, Suozzi Celebrate Passage of Helen Keller National Center Reauthorization Act
Today, U.S. Representatives Mark Pocan (WI-02), Tom Cole (OK-04), and Tom Suozzi (NY-03) led a bipartisan group of representatives to pass the “Helen Keller National Center Reauthorization Act,” which would reauthorize Helen Keller National Center (HKNC) for 5 years.
HKNC provides essential vocational training and rehabilitation to the deaf-blind community across the United States. The Helen Keller National Center Reauthorization Act allows for continued funding of the Center through 2023. The HKNC Act passed unanimously by a voice vote and now heads to the Senate.
“The Helen Keller National Center has a long history of supporting deaf-blind people nationwide, providing them with opportunities to take an active role in our local communities,” said Pocan. “For over 50 years, the Center has been an invaluable resource and solid foundation for deaf-blind Americans across the nation and in my home state of Wisconsin. I’m proud to join my colleagues and lead this effort to reauthorize the Center for five more years so this beneficial work can continue to shape the lives of so many.”
“Following its passage in the House, I am very pleased that legislation to reauthorize the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youth and Adults is now one step closer to the finish line. For more than 50 years, the Center has admirably served deaf-blind communities and also supported those who care for and work with these individuals,” said Cole. “Certainly, the Center’s valuable mission, important work and role as a resource is worth affirming through reauthorization by Congress.”
“The Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults, which is located in my district, is unique in that it is the only organization of its kind nationwide that serves a population that is both deaf and blind. HKNC enables deaf-blind Americans to live, work, and thrive in our community,” said Suozzi. “It is my privilege to support this reauthorization and do what I can to support and strengthen this organization, one that truly represents miracles in people’s lives.”
“On behalf of Helen Keller National Center I would like to express a special thanks Representative Pocan for championing the re-authorization of the HKNC Act,” said Susan Ruzenski, Executive Director of Helen Keller National Center. “By doing so he has made visible to Congress a community that strives to realize their aspirations and has demonstrated time and time again that given access to quality services and opportunities they too can achieve self-actualized lives.”
Since it was first authorized by Congress in 1967, HKNC has expanded to support regional representatives based in California, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Texas, Utah, and Washington. It has additionally created six new deaf-blind specialist positions across the country that will provide additional assistance and support to deaf-blind persons in Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Ohio, Texas, and Washington. HKNC’s goal is to deploy 20 deaf-blind specialists (2 in each region) and to establish a Community Service program in Los Angeles/San Diego with the goal of 4 additional community programs by 2020.
HKNC is the only comprehensive national program that provides information, referral, support, and training exclusively to youths and adults who have combined vision and hearing loss. The Center also supports the families and professionals who work with the deaf-blind community.