Two bills passed unanimously during Oregon’s 2017 legislative session that will help significantly to raise awareness for and accommodate disabled citizens. Both were sponsored by State Representative Cedric Hayden.

The first bill, House Bill 2591, moved to designate May as the awareness month for Williams Syndrome, which is a rare genetic condition present at birth that is characterized by numerous medical problems, particularly cardiovascular issues, learning disabilities, and developmental delays.

Representative Hayden, who is currently raising his six-year-old daughter with Williams Syndrome, was motivated to introduce the bill because of his personal experience with the disability. He stated that he hoped appointing May as Williams Syndrome Awareness Month would promote medical and fundraiser awareness for the genetic disorder. The other benefit to the bill he noted is that it could help parents identify the disorder in their children earlier and take the appropriate steps for helping their children deal with this disorder.

The other bill, House Bill 3029, allows for parents or legal guardians to postpone for one year the enrollment of their child in public school if the child’s sixth birthday occurs on or before September 1st. Hayden’s daughter, who is delayed around 24-36 months physically and cognitively like many other disabled children, was forced to go to public school at the age of six. The school held her back in kindergarten another year as a result, which Hayden says naturally caused emotional stress for her and the family.

Many parents with children who have cognitive disabilities (Autism, Down Syndrome, etc) have run into similar problems as Hayden. House Bill 3029 addresses exactly that issue by allowing the parents to delay a child’s education to better accommodate his or her cognitive ability. The decision is purely up to the parents without interference from the school board.

Helen Cook is a current honors student at Benedictine College, where she is studying History with possible minors in English and Political Science. She is heavily active in student life, participating in three music ensembles as a violinist and leading Ravens Respect Life as president. When she is not busy with school and student life activities, she is found reading the many classical works of literature.