Dingell, DeSaulnier Introduce Bill to Expand Access to Augmentative and Alternative Communication
Washington, September 27, 2023
Representatives Debbie Dingell (MI-06), co-chair of the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus, and Mark DeSaulnier (CA-10) introduced the Augmentative and Alternative Communication Centers to Establish National Training (AACCENT) Act, to expand access to augmentative and alternative communication for Americans across the country. Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) includes any tool, technology, or service that supports people who use little or no verbal speech to communicate. AAC can enhance communication, foster language and literacy development and help millions of people access communication and participate in all aspects of life.
“Augmentative and alternative communication services, devices, and technology are essential for millions of Americans to work, learn, and generally stay connected with their communities and the world around them,” Dingell said. “We know that AAC supports can significantly improve individuals’ quality of life and open opportunities that otherwise would not be available to them. The AACCENT Act is a significant step to increase education and expand access to these vital resources.”
“Assistive technology like AAC is critical to helping break down barriers and allowing millions of individuals to reach their full potential by more easily connecting, working, and participating in their communities,” said DeSaulnier. “I am proud to continue my history of advocating for the disability community by partnering with Congresswoman Dingell on this important legislation that will improve access to this technology.”
The AACCENT Act will establish three national resource centers coordinated to improve access to AAC information, tools and supports for AAC users and their families. They also aim to increase the capacity and leadership skills of people who use AAC, their families and professionals.
More than 4 million people in the United States cannot reliably meet their daily communication needs using verbal speech. People who use and can benefit from AAC include those with intellectual or developmental disabilities (e.g., cerebral palsy, Down syndrome), acquired or degenerative conditions (e.g., Parkinson’s disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s) and those with temporary conditions that limit vocal speech (e.g., those who are intubated post-surgery). Advances in AAC have enhanced communication and improved outcomes for millions of Americans, yet, not everyone has access to AAC. Lack of knowledge and resources creates barriers for people who can benefit from AAC. The AACCENT Act will help reduce these barriers by creating resource centers focused on AAC.
The AACCENT Act has a companion bill in the Senate, introduced by Senator Bob Casey, Chair of the Special Committee on Aging.
View the full text of the legislation here.