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Senate Passes Bill Creating Higher Education Opportunities for Students with Disabilities

July 7, 2016

Today the Massachusetts Senate passed legislation to improve the lives of many individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities by enabling them to attend college with their same-aged peers in an inclusive setting.  The bill, originally sponsored by Senator Barbara L’Italien (D-Andover) opens the doors of our state colleges and universities to students who have been historically denied access to higher education, and held back to complete additional years of high school, because their disability prevented them from obtaining a high school diploma.

“Like all Massachusetts students, students with disabilities deserve access to the academic, social and workforce training benefits of higher education. This bill reinforces the legislature’s commitment to inclusion and opportunity for people of all ages and abilities, helping students develop skills, live independently and transition to adulthood,” said Senate Committee on Ways and Means Chair Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland).

The bill also codifies the very successful Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative Grant program, which allows high school students aged 18-21 with intellectual and developmental disabilities to participate in an inclusive college course and the student life of college as part of their high school special education.  Thirteen colleges and universities already partner with nearly 70 school districts statewide to offer the program, and now it will be available statewide for the rest of the residents of the Commonwealth.

“We are so grateful for the leadership of Senate President Rosenberg, Senate Ways and Means Chair Spilka, and Senator L’Italien for their leadership on this important issue.  This bill will open doors and make college a reality for students with disabilities who until now watched their siblings and friends go on to college with no hope of being able to go on their own.  Now it’s their turn!” said Ann Guay, an attorney from Bedford whose son, Brian Guay, has participated in the ICEI initiative at Middlesex Community College.

All residents of our Commonwealth have the ability to be lifelong learners and pursue education and this bill allows each of our students to reach his or her potential.

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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