AG Bell FAQs on Recent LEAD-K Agreement

AG Bell and LEAD-K leaders recently agreed on adaptations to the model LEAD-K bill that will strengthen it for all children who are deaf or hard of hearing. 

Policy Contact: Joni Alberg, AG Bell Public Policy Consultant

Email: jalberg@agbell.org

Media Contact: Christopher Gensch, Communications Director

Office: 202-204-4668

Email: cgensch@agbell.org



WASHINGTON, November 21, 2018 – AG Bell and LEAD-K leaders recently agreed on adaptations to the model LEAD-K bill that will strengthen it for all children who are deaf or hard of hearing. AG Bell received varied responses regarding the announcement of the agreement and revised model bill as well as questions and concerns from the community. This document will address questions and concerns we have received as well as clarify components of the model bill and related agreement. It is important to remember that the revised LEAD-K model bill is not intended to address (or solve) all the concerns and problems confronting children who are deaf and hard of hearing. Rather, this is a first step in trying to collaborate and to address specific issues that could result in improved outcomes for children.

The following FAQs represent the current view of AG Bell as it relates to this new agreement. The FAQs will be updated as AG Bell works with its chapters, members and other stakeholders in its community.

Q. What is this new agreement? How and when did it occur?

A. LEAD-K is an acronym for Language Equality and Acquisition for Deaf Kids. In 2015, LEAD-K, through local LEAD-K supporters, began to introduce grassroots legislation in individual states (beginning in California) across the United States. An open letter to AG Bell regarding the AG Bell Virginia chapter led to an ongoing email conversation between national LEAD-K and national AG Bell leaders. That conversation culminated in an agreement to come together for a face-to-face meeting.

Certainly, while there were other organizations and stakeholders involved in supporting or fighting LEAD-K legislation in one or more states, the rhetoric between AG Bell as a long-time representative and supporter of the community of individuals who use listening and spoken language, their parents/ families, and the professionals who serve them, and LEAD-K, a representative of the culturally Deaf Community, their parents/families, and the professionals who serve them, needed to be addressed and shifted, where possible.

While each organization has fundamental differences, each organization, along with other organizations and stakeholders, held a strong desire in common to increase the language readiness of children who are deaf or hard of hearing nationwide upon entrance into kindergarten.

Leaders from AG Bell and LEAD-K met in Chicago on October 4-5, 2018 to address the underlying principles and elements of the LEAD-K and AG Bell model bills to identify where we agree and where we differ. Each organization expressed the desired outcome of having a consensus regarding basic elements of legislation that each organization could “live with” and use as a model for state legislation. This mediated meeting resulted in open discussion about the past, present and future. It was agreed that the LEAD-K model bill (which had already been passed in one form or another in seven states) would be revised to include some of the principles of great importance to AG Bell.

These principles include: parent choice for language and communication mode; creation of a parent resource that contains fair, balanced and comprehensive information about language, communication and available services and programs; and a balanced advisory committee in which representatives of language and communication modes would be included and where the majority of committee members would be deaf or hard of hearing (some of whom likely will be professionals).

Q. Why did AG Bell make this agreement with LEAD-K at this moment?

A. Over the past two and a half years, our members have found themselves engaged in state-level controversies with LEAD-K proponents over legislative initiatives to improve outcomes for children who are deaf or hard of hearing. In some states, these battles have proven to be intense and painful, and in most states, have impeded efforts to improve outcomes for children. In agreeing to meet, we intended to reset the conversation, if possible, to allow us to focus on promoting listening and spoken language and parent choice as a means to improve outcomes in children.

Q. How will children who are deaf and hard of hearing nationwide benefit from this agreement going forward?

A. The agreement to work collaboratively with LEAD-K rather than proceed as adversaries will allow all of us to focus on providing comprehensive information to parents about:

  • Language(s) and communication modes;

  • The importance of measuring and monitoring children’s progress as they acquire receptive and expressive language;

  • The understanding that the language developmental milestones for children who are deaf or hard of hearing and who use spoken language are the same as for children with typical hearing; and

  • Equipping parents to fully participate in establishing language goals for their children during Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) and Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings.

Q. Is there anything in the model bill that will usurp a child’s Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) and/or Individualized Education Program (IEP)?

A. No. A child’s IFSP and/or IEP is/are developed to address the specific and individual developmental and educational needs and programming of a particular child. Parents will be able to reference the resource guide for language goals in their role as a member of their child’s IFSP/IEP team. The advisory committee will have no direct input to IFSPs/IEPs.

Q. What specific changes were added to the LEAD-K bill that will benefit children and families?

A. • Parent(s) have the right to select the language they want (ASL, English or both) for their child. (NEW, SECTION 1.(a)(6))

  • Creation of a parent resource that includes fair, balanced and comprehensive information about language(s) and communication modes as well as available services and programs.
    (NEW, SECTION 1(a)(9))

  • Provides “examples” of individuals who may be included on the advisory committee, with each state determining the specific expertise of the members. (MODIFICATION, SECTION 1(e)(2))

  • Provides that the advisory committee membership must be balanced between people who use ASL and those who use only spoken English. (NEW, SECTION 1(e)(2))

  • Defines the various communication modes that align with the language chosen by the parents: ASL services; spoken language services; dual language services; cued speech; and tactile; or a combination thereof. (NEW, SECTION 1(k))

Q. What will happen at the state level, and what should chapters and members do in response to the model bill and related agreement?

A. Joni Alberg, AG Bell’s public policy consultant, will take the lead by request from AG Bell members to connect with state leaders for LEAD-K.

If desired, Joni will arrange introductions to state LEAD-K leaders and/or facilitate support of our members at the state level. Joni and the AG Bell National Public Policy team (Emilio Alonso-Mendoza, Gayla Guignard, Bruce Goldstein) will be available for assistance with collaboration at the state and national levels.

Any chapter or member with questions, concerns or desire for technical assistance may contact Joni at jalberg@agbell.org.

It is recognized that some state chapters may decide not to pursue legislation. This is a state-by-state decision.

Q. Whom should I contact in my state as this initiative continues?

A. You should contact your state chapter president for the most up-to-date information. Chapter presidents can connect you to the chapter leader(s) who is/are focused on policy and legislative initiatives in your state. If no AG Bell chapter exists in your state or if you wish to contact the
AG Bell national office, please contact Joni at
jalberg@agbell.org or visit www.agbell.org/connect (chapter pages).

Q. Has AG Bell’s position on Listening and Spoken Language (LSL) changed?

A. No. AG Bell’s position regarding LSL is the foundation upon which we exist and remains unchanged. We will continue to promote LSL for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing worldwide and provide related resources to parents who are interested in or have chosen an LSL approach, individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing, and the professionals who serve them.


Q. What will working with LEAD-K look like?

A. This collaborative work will evolve as we move forward. For now, we have agreed to collaborate on state-level legislation for those states desired by both organizations. As we move forward, we will look for other ways to work together. As part of this process, we request that everyone involved engage in fair and mutually respectful behavior while discussing differences, as well as look for mutually agreeable solutions when possible and agree to disagree when necessary.

In closing, AG Bell and LEAD-K as organizations represent different sides of a long-held argument about how children who are deaf or hard of hearing learn and live. With the advent of early hearing detection (through State Early Hearing Detection and Intervention [EHDI] programs), significant advances in hearing technology, and earlier access to professionals (e.g., audiologists, speech-language pathologists, educators who specialize in deafness, listening and spoken language specialists and other qualified professionals), AG Bell continues to focus on its mission “working globally to ensure that people who are deaf and hard of hearing can hear and talk.”

Children who are born with or acquire hearing loss have a greater opportunity today than at any other point in history to be identified early, fitted with technology (e.g., hearing aids and cochlear implants), and provided with early intervention and family support services that can help them to develop age-level and above age-level speech and language skills. However, for a variety of reasons, some children have not received this support and these services.

As an organizational member of the deaf and hard of hearing community, AG Bell believes that decisions related to language, communication, technology, and education are up to the parents of individual children. In recognition that “no one size fits all,” AG Bell also believes that an array of options, opportunities, and choices need to continue to be available. To this end, there is still much work to be done to ensure children and families have access to information about listening, speech and language development, the options that exist, and the services needed to achieve their goals for language and communication success.

AG Bell hopes that this modified LEAD-K legislation will help facilitate significant progress towards improved outcomes for larger numbers of children.

For questions and more information related to the agreement, please contact:

AG Bell Public Policy Consultant
Joni Alberg
AG Bell Chief Strategy Officer
Gayla Guignard

Click below to view the amended model bill, AG Bell’s press release and statement.

Amended Model Bill
AG Bell Statement on LEAD-K Agreement
AG Bell and LEAD-K Press Release


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Alexander Graham Bell Association
for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

3417 Volta Place NW
Washington, D.C. 20007

Tel: 202-337-5220
TTY: 202-337-5221
Fax: 202-337-8314


Our Mission

Working globally to ensure that people who are deaf and hard of hearing can hear and talk. 

We want all families to be informed and supported, professionals to be appropriately qualified to teach and help children with hearing loss, public policy leaders to effectively address the needs of people with hearing loss, and communities to be empowered to help their neighbors with hearing loss succeed.