Reading and Deaf & Hard of Hearing Pupils in Mainstream Education

13th March 2019

Reading and Deaf & Hard of Hearing Pupils in Mainstream Education by Dr Elizabeth Mathews and Dr Margaret O’Donnell (funded by IDS, CIDP and Chime)
Internationally, the education of pupils who are deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) has changed considerably over the last four decades. Prior to the 1970s, it was customary for DHH pupils to be educated in segregated settings alongside other DHH pupils. Since the 1970s, there has been a flurry of both national and international legislation supporting the integration of pupils with special educational needs into mainstream schools. National legislation was pioneered in the United States in 1975 when President Ford passed Public Law 94-142 the Education for All Handicapped Pupils Act (later to become the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act – IDEA). Public Law 94-142 made two important propositions: that all pupils were entitled to a free and appropriate education and that this education would be provided in the least restrictive environment. While not explicitly stated within the Act itself, the least restrictive environment became widely interpreted as the local mainstream school (Ramsey, 1997). In the UK, similar legislation was enacted in 1981 following the recommendations of the Warnock Committee, thus enabling education for pupils with special educational needs to take place in mainstream schools. These legislative changes culminated internationally in the Organization (UNESCO) World Conference on Special Needs Equality and Quality in Spain in 1994 which recognises that pupils with special educational needs will achieve their “fullest educational progress and and Cultural Organization, 1994, p. 11).
In Ireland, the legislative move to mainstreaming occurred considerably later, with the Education Act in 1998 (Government of Ireland, 1998) and the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act (EPSEN) in 2004 (Government of Ireland, 2004). The 1998 Education Act mandated that schools provide an appropriate education to all students, including those with special educational needs (Government of Ireland, 1998). Again in 2004, the EPSEN Act recommended that pupils with SEN should receive their education alongside peers who did not have SEN (Government of Ireland, 2004). However, the earlier Report by the Committee on the Education of the Hearing-Impaired recommended the establishment of a Visiting Teacher Service to support
the integration of DHH pupils in mainstream schools (Department of Education, 1972). In the absence of legislation, the creation of the Visiting Teacher Service facilitated, in practice, the integration of DHH pupils in mainstream settings.
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