WASHINGTON, D.C. – 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 National Center for DeafBlind Youth and Adults (HKNC) for five years through 2027.
HKNC provides essential vocational training and rehabilitation to the DeafBlind community across the United States. The HKNC Reauthorization Act passed the House today and now heads to the Senate.
“The Helen Keller National Center has a long history of supporting DeafBlind people nationwide, providing them with opportunities to take an active role in their local communities,” said Pocan. “For over 50 years, the Center has been an invaluable resource and solid foundation for DeafBlind 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.”
“To this day, the Helen Keller National Center for DeafBlind Youths and Adults is the only comprehensive national program that provides information, referrals, support and training exclusively to Americans who have combined vision and hearing loss. The work the Center performs is essential and life changing for the people they are able to serve, and this work and this population deserves all our support,” said Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), House Committee on Education and Labor.
“Following its passage in the House, I am very pleased that legislation to reauthorize the Helen Keller National Center for DeafBlind Youth and Adults is now one step closer to the finish line. For more than 50 years, the Center has admirably served DeafBlind 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 DeafBlind 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 DeafBlind Americans to live, work, and thrive in our community,” said Suozzi.“It is my privilege to support this legislation 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 to Representative Pocan for championing the reauthorization of the HKNC Act,” said Susan Ruzenski, CEO of Helen Keller Services. “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 established national services with regional offices based in California, Florida, Louisiana, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New York, Arizona, and Washington. It has additionally created two Community Services programs in New York and California and has deployed 12 DeafBlind Employment Specialist positions across the country that provide additional assistance and support to DeafBlind persons in Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Michigan/Ohio, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, Illinois, Indiana, and Arkansas. HKNC has also deployed three Youth services Coordinators in Utah, New York, and Illinois. HKNC’s goal is to deploy 20 DeafBlind Employment Specialists (two in each region) and to establish two additional Community Service Programs.
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 DeafBlind community.