Thursday, August 21, 2008

Good news for those with Trisomy 21

Higher Education Act Passed
Congress has approved a bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. This act, which sets federal higher education policy for at least the next five years, will expand eligibility for grants and work study jobs to students with intellectual disabilities; authorize new model programs; and, infuse the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) into the higher education law.
Summary of provisions for students with intellectual disabilities
Allows students with intellectual disabilities, who are attending programs designed for them in higher education, to be eligible for the first time for Pell Grants, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants and the Federal Work-Study Program.
Authorizes the development and expansion of high-quality, inclusive model comprehensive transition and post-secondary programs.
Authorizes the establishment of a coordinating center for the new model programs. This center will provide technical assistance, evaluation, and development of recommendations for model accreditation standards as well as outreach and dissemination to postsecondary programs, families and prospective students.
Ensure equal college opportunities for students with disabilities
Establishes a national center to provide support services and best practices for colleges, students with disabilities, and their families.
Helps colleges recruit, retain, and graduate students with disabilities and improves education materials and facilities.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
The Higher Education Opportunity Act contains numerous provisions regarding the preparation of educators in early childhood, elementary, secondary and postsecondary education settings to use the principles of UDL in their instructional practices. UDL provides flexibility in the ways information is presented, in the ways students respond or demonstrate knowledge and skills, and in the ways students are engaged. It also reduces barriers in instruction, provides appropriate accommodations, supports, and challenges, and maintains high achievement expectations for all students. The recent UDL efforts were led by a task force headed by Ricki Sabia, Associate Director of the National Down Syndrome Society Policy Center, and 24 general education and disability organizations, including the National Down Syndrome Congress. For more information on the Task Force and Universal Design for Learning see and
The National Down Syndrome Congress applauds the leadership and hard work of our partners at the NDSS Policy Center on this initiative. In addition, we recognize and appreciate the leadership and bipartisan spirit of the following members of Congress who were instrumental in the passage of this bill: Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX), who is also the father of a son with Down syndrome; Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Kennedy (D-MA); Ranking Member Enzi (R-WY); House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Miller (D-CA); Ranking Member McKeon (R-CA); and, Senator Mikulski (D-MD). For more information on the Higher Education Act, contact Madeleine Will at

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