An enormous number of Americans are affected by hearing loss. In fact, nearly 20% of the population age 12 and older have a hearing condition that impedes daily communication. But our modern society rarely willingly observes the needs of those outside of the healthy and able-bodied demographic. Not always out of ill will, but instead out of ignorance.
Services, from those that are government administered to commercial companies, are often conceived by and for healthy hearing individuals. Because of this tendency, the requirement to make services accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing is required by law through the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
History of this historic act
First signed into official law in 1990, the ADA is the result of the tireless advocacy by key activists. It was modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which precludes discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin and other characteristics. Where the ADA specifically aids the disabled is that it requires organizations or venues to deliver reasonable accommodations to disabled patrons or employees.
Real life scenarios
The way this might play out in your own life is in the workplace. When a meeting is held with many people and many voices, those with hearing loss are at a disadvantage. The ADA requires that your employer work with the deaf and hard of hearing to ensure that the experience delivers the same results as those that healthy hearing coworkers are gaining. What might happen is that the discussion is recorded and detailed notes are distributed, which provides a clear and concise understanding of the meeting content for folks with hearing loss.
In recreational activities, the ADA might require a theater or concert to provide an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter to communicate the performance’s dialogue to the deaf and hard of hearing in the audience.
Adequate service from service providers
Hearing loss and thus communication is also a key factor in delivering adequate medical treatment to the deaf and hard of hearing population. What good is seeking the advice of a medical professional if the details are fraught or lost because of miscommunication? Because of the critical and detailed nature of such conversations, additional resources are required under what constitutes “reasonable accommodation.” Whereas at a restaurant, reasonable accommodation can be reached by simply writing notes instead of verbal communication, a serious discussion involving medical advice at a hospital or interactions with law enforcement likely requires an interpreter to be involved.
Rights in action
The ADA is the legal foundation on which people can rely upon to ensure that Americans with disabilities are treated fairly across the spectrum. Of course, it requires one to know what services and accommodations they’re entitled in order to be fully realized.
Perhaps the most significant way this is enacted in our society is around employee discrimination. The ADA prohibits the denial of employment towards an individual with a disability, such as hearing loss, that is based upon that disability. As a result of passing the ADA in 1990, such employee discrimination can be successfully challenged in a court of law.
Using your ADA rights
Make your needs known. Employers and establishments are required by law to make accommodations, but don’t forget that most people sincerely want to help ease the experience of a fellow human being. However, unspoken needs will almost always remain unmet until they’re vocalized or communicated. This is also a time to do your own self advocacy work. Sometimes the actual problem is a lack of awareness and education surrounding disability. After you’ve made your needs known, help others help you by suggesting solutions to your situation. This not only assists you in the short term, but it paves the way for future awareness and problem solving in the long term for a wider population of deaf or hard of hearing folks.
If you feel as though your disability has resulted in loss of employment or evaluation of work performance, there are several routes to take. The National Association of the Deaf played a significant role in the passing of the ADA and continue to fight for the rights of the deaf and hard of hearing in the workplace and throughout the country. If disability discrimination has affected your life, they are a wonderful resource to reach out to. They can help you sort through your scenario and find the best next steps to take.
You don’t have to live with untreated hearing loss. In addition to accommodations provided by our government, seeking treatment in the form of hearing aids brings significant benefits to your health and well-being. Visit us at Fidelity Hearing today for a consultation.