This article provides the framework for a national approach to address the unmet needs of deaf and hard of hearing individuals that are most at-risk, those individuals traditionally identified as low functioning deaf (LFD). The paper is intended to expand the ongoing discussion between service programs, educational programs, schools, advocates, research centers and federal program representatives regarding the challenges that individuals who are labeled LFD present to the public education and rehabilitation systems. More importantly, this paper should result in a call for action to mobilize the deaf community, policy makers and federal program professionals toward the establishment of a national approach that will assist at risk LFD individuals to become meaningfully employed through traditional and non-traditional means, and to function independently at home and in the community.

The paper is the product of the LFD Strategic Work Group, a group convened by the Postsecondary Education Programs Network (PEPNet) through their grant with the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and endorsed by the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), both components of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and U.S. Department of Education. The Work Group includes federal program managers, national consumer leaders, researchers and professionals from the field.