Tag Archives: ADA

The ADA In Action

ADA-americans-disabilities-act-aniversary-info-resources-01July 26 marks the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act: a set of laws established to help people with disabilities gain access to society that was simply not designed for them. Since 1990, this landmark piece of legislation has improved the lives of millions of Americans by providing clarification regarding their rights to access— whether that means built-in wheelchair ramps, requesting ASL interpreters, or allowing service animals into buildings— and offering legal recourse for individuals whose rights are violated.

Make no mistake, the ADA has not miraculously leveled the playing field for those with disabilities. It helped lay the foundation for equal access, but the ADA does not guarantee that services will be available for those who need them when they need them.

Deaf Self Advocacy

ADA-americans-disabilities-act-aniversary-equal-access-02Without the hard work of determined disability rights activists, the ADA would never have been passed; and without ongoing advocacy efforts, little real change might have come from the legislation. People who do not need to reference the ADA on a regular basis to get their basic needs met are frequently unaware of their obligation to ensure equal access to their establishment / service / business. In the years since the ADA became law, people with disabilities have had to consistently perform the labor of educating people about their disabilities and what it means to be disabled in a world that favors able-bodied individuals. They must also be willing to challenge organizations to go beyond bare minimum compliance, which can sometimes mean taking on large institutions in a public way.

Below you will find links to some recent video blogs by individuals who are d/Deaf/HoH:

ADA-americans-disabilities-act-aniversary-equal-access-03

These are only a few of the thousands of thoughtful explanations and analyses of the ADA and how these legal provisions actually apply to those who are deaf. There are countless hours of video containing firsthand accounts, experiences, successes and failures available on the Internet for those wishing to gain a deeper insight into the longterm impact of the 1990 Act. Overall we have seen quite a bit of progress yet discrimination remains a fact, due in large part to simple ignorance.

If you are a deaf or hard of hearing individual, it is your responsibility to ensure that your rights are not being violated. Until we live in a world where accessibility is built-in and widely understood, the burden will continue to fall on already disadvantaged minority groups to fight for basic accommodations.

Here you will find links to some ADA resources:

ADA-americans-disabilities-act-aniversary-equal-access-04Each time a person takes it upon themselves to challenge the institution that oppresses them, they remove a barrier for the next person— no matter how big or small. This incremental progress adds up over time. If your rights are violated, pursue further action. If your needs are not adequately met, provide feedback and pursue further action. The advocacy and awareness that each person spreads works toward creating a more educated society with advanced views of disability. Pushing back is important work!

Everyone Can Support the ADA

ADA-americans-disabilities-act-aniversary-equal-access-05But what about allies? How can people who are not deaf or disabled help, without their position of able-bodied privilege resulting in further oppression? Where to get started?

On a day-to-day basis, allies can look for opportunities to help raise awareness about deaf perspectives and offer support for better access. Examples:

  • A marketing manager or event coordinator at a company can take it upon themselves to consistently educate about and advocate for inclusive events, emphasizing the importance of providing interpreters  and advertising events as deaf-friendly.
  • Managers and supervisors on a corporate level can suggest cultural competency  training for employees, preferably a program created by and/ or led by people who are deaf. This will help create an understanding of diversity, and can open up new possibilities with deaf clients and customers.
  • Administrators or Human Resource managers can take the time to ensure that their organization has contracts on file with high quality interpreting agencies. They can work to emphasize the importance of being prepared for deaf individuals to access goods and services as they please.
  • If there are initiatives underway in the community, for example deaf individuals in your area are pushing for captioned showings at theaters, make sure to amplify their concerns and take any actions possible to support their cause.

Moving Forward

ADA-americans-disabilities-act-civil-rights-06The ADA in action is more of a tool for people with disabilities than any kind of guarantee. This set of legislation only works when it is enforced, and it is up to each member of our society to help enforce it.

We must maintain our willingness to challenge comfortable but oppressive social norms in everyday situations. We need to keep pushing for what is right, even when it is the more difficult path. Working together, little by little we can help remove the structural roadblocks that limit individuals, thereby collectively creating a truly diverse America.

LCIS is thrilled to offer ADA Compliance Consulting for businesses and organizations.  Our ADA Compliance Consulting program works in conjunction with relevant stakeholders and committee of Deaf advisors to assist organizations with reducing legal risk and ensuring that their business has all the tools for success when working with Deaf/ HoH customers, clients, or employees. Contact us Today for more information!

6 Reasons to Hire Deaf Employees

reasons-hire-deaf-employees-01Applying for jobs can be a test of nerves. Each resume must be tailored and each cover letter is a carefully crafted sales pitch. We highlight our skills and professional experience while explaining why we’d be a great fit for the organization. On employment applications, we are asked to expose so much of ourselves, yet we are expected to keep the most important details private.

A recent study published in the New York Times revealed that employers were 34% less likely to hire an experienced job candidate with a disability, and 15% less likely to hire a novice candidate with a disability. This study suggests what deaf people already know: even in our modern era, when organizations claim to value diversity, hiring discrimination persists as a sad reality.

reasons-hire-deaf-employees-02Often, employers do not understand how to accommodate people with different abilities, fearing (incorrectly) that it will be costly or complicated. More importantly, they do not understand the value that people who are deaf bring to the team. Below are just a few of the many, many excellent reasons to include people who are deaf/ hard of hearing in any organization.

Adaptable

People who are deaf spend much of their lives finding ways to adapt within hearing culture. Because of this, deaf employees may exhibit impressive patience and flexibility in the face of a challenge.

Mediators

People who are deaf become talented at bridging communication and cultural gaps in everyday situations. This can translate into strong problem solving and interpersonal skills.

Perspective

reasons-hire-deaf-employees-03Deaf employees bring a unique perspective to the team. Because their background and life experiences are inevitably different than their hearing colleagues’, an individual who is deaf/HoH might suggest services, features, or marketing ideas that other employees would never have even considered.

Safe and Reliable

Studies have shown that workers with disabilities are viewed as dependable, loyal, and responsible. They also tend to have overall positive job performance ratings. One study found that deaf/ HoH employees rank among the highest safety ratings in the workforce!

Hard Workers

reasons-hire-deaf-employees-04Since deaf job candidates often face discriminatory hiring practices, it can be a challenge just to get a foot in the door. Deaf employees tend to work hard to secure their position and seek opportunities for career advancement.

Synergy

A workplace that employs deaf individuals can enrich the culture of their entire organization! Adding diversity provides all employees the opportunity to work on effective communication and cooperation skills, while challenging people to explore new perspectives. With proper cultural competency training, each individual in an organization can learn to become more compassionate, open minded, and willing to go the extra mile for the team.

reasons-hire-deaf-employees-05Common fears about hiring people who are deaf are usually unfounded. Those worried about cost should know that most accommodations cost less than $500. The Job Accommodation Network provides some great examples of affordable accommodations that allow organizations to hire and retain valuable deaf/ HoH employees, and there are tax benefits available to help businesses ensure ADA compliance.

reasons-hire-deaf-employees-06For employers who have questions about integrating a deaf individual into the workplace, there are plenty of resources available. Ultimately, the best way to figure out what accommodations a deaf person needs and prefers is to simply ask them! Employers should ensure that they treat deaf employees with respect, communicate with them as professional colleagues, and don’t leave them out of work-related social situations (such as lunches and parties). Managers will need a basic foundation of knowledge about deafness and deaf communication to help everyone develop a comfortable working dynamic.

reasons-hire-deaf-employees-07As our society increasingly celebrates diversity, businesses that do not adapt inclusive hiring policies are sure to fall out of favor. By denying qualified deaf individuals job opportunities, employers are also refusing their current employees the opportunity to learn and grow in a multicultural work environment. Additionally, the employee profile of a business sends a subtle message to potential clients and customers about an organization’s fundamental values.

reasons-hire-deaf-employees-08Before hiring managers start calculating the cost of accessibility, they ought to consider the priceless advantage of a diverse workforce. Deaf individuals deserve an equal chance to succeed in any field they choose. Creating a deaf-friendly workplace enhances many people’s lives, and brings us one step closer to a deaf-friendly world. It’s progressive, it’s equality, and it’s the right thing to do.

LC Interpreting Services is thrilled to offer Cultural Competency Training seminars for businesses and organizations on a national level. Learn how to effectively integrate Deaf/HoH employees in the workplace and provide them the support they need, while educating other staff members and management about deafness and Deaf culture. Our cultural competency training is comprehensive, informative, and a great team-building exercise!

Deaf Discrimination: The Fight for Justice Continues

deaf-discrimination-in hospitals-01Last thing you remember, you were walking down the street— now you are lying in a hospital bed. The lights are so bright you can barely see, and your whole body is in pain. You try asking for assistance, but none of the medical staff can understand you because none of them communicate by using American Sign Language (ASL). They hand you some paperwork and ask you to write your questions on a note pad, but all you want is a conversation. What happened to you? How did you get here? What are you supposed to do now?

deaf-discrimination-02Frequently and all too easily, the rights of people who are deaf get stripped away. Every day, deaf individuals attempting to interact with hearing authorities, emergency responders, or organizations are denied basic access to communication and, in some instances, their lives are put into jeopardy. There have been a number of cases where deaf Americans are wrongfully arrested after calling 911 for help. There are cases where deaf people die after the hospital withholds a critical medical diagnosis. Or perhaps ambitious students are denied access to medical school because the institution doesn’t feel like fulfilling their legal obligation to provide an interpreter. Although we live in the Land of the Free, the deaf citizens of this country continue to be oppressed by a disturbing lack of equal access

deaf-discrimination-audism-03As we approach the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, it is alarming to see the level of audism that still exists in in this country. Audism is the belief that those with the ability to hear are superior or “normal.” Because of audism, the rights of deaf individuals are regularly violated in places such as movie theaters, classrooms, and even online. Simple considerations such as captioning, transcription, or sign language interpreting services can help break through the language barrier to protect the rights of deaf Americans. The ADA is a set of laws which guarantee equal access, yet deaf people are refused these accommodations due to the ignorance that still exists.

Instead of building communication access in as a business expense, many organizations take an audist approach– meaning that they assume the people who wish to join their staff, patronize their business, or utilize their services are all able to hear. Based on the fact that 15% of American adults report some hearing loss, a number which increases to 25% for people over 65 years of age, businesses really ought to take a more inclusive approach right from the start. Institutions should be prepared from the onset to cater to our diverse population. Organizations which neglect to provide equal access as required by the ADA not only earn themselves a bad reputation within the Deaf community, they potentially open themselves up to a discrimination lawsuit.

deaf-discrimination-in hospitals-04Hospitals around the country are learning the hard way that equal access is no longer a choice. While the ADA requires equal accommodation in public settings, hospitals have been charged time and time again with neglecting the needs of deaf patients. Take the recent case of Cheylla Silva, a deaf woman with a high risk pregnancy who was asked to use a video interpreter for the birth of her child. Communicating with medical professionals through a remote interpreter on a pixelated screen and using unreliable equipment that is off to the side of the bed is not an appropriate solution while giving birth Without an on-site interpreter available, a deaf person who uses ASL to communicate simply cannot receive the same level of care as a hearing individual. This is not equality.

Businesses such as Apple, with a robust set of accessibility features, and rideshare startup Lyft, which proudly boasts a large number of deaf drivers, have included accessibility into their business models. Home Depot was listed among DeafFriendly.com’s top Deaf Friendly Businesses of 2014 for meeting deaf customer needs and hiring deaf employees. Sign language restaurants, such as Signs, Mozzeria, and DeaFined, are gaining popularity by offering patrons a “Deaf dining experience,” complete with deaf/HoH waitstaff. Staff and customers alike are thrilled to support businesses which assume responsibility for creating equal opportunities. These organizations recognize that the beauty of diversity far outweighs the expense of catering to a diverse population.

deaf-discrimination-05Discrimination occurs on an institutional level, starting with policies from the top down. Although many organizations tout the merits of multiculturalism, very few of them provide adequate cultural competency training for their staff or demonstrate diversity in hiring practices. Even in places where communication is critical, such as police stations and hospitals, deaf people are denied basic human rights. The ADA makes it clear that refusal to accommodate people who are disabled is discrimination. Therefore, every person in the workforce should be made aware of the ADA to protect themselves and their employer from liability. These laws have been in place for 25 years, it’s time we all take a little personal responsibility for preserving the rights of our fellow citizens.

deaf-discrimination-06Without equal access, quality of life suffers. Unemployment rates within the deaf community are nearly double the average rate in America, even for those who pursue higher education or specialty training. Without the ability to effectively communicate, deaf people are more likely to experience a medical misdiagnosis or wrongful arrest. Deaf people are denied cultural access in theaters and at concerts. Living in an audist society that assumes everyone can hear, the deaf community must fight just to participate in everyday life.

deaf-discrimination-07The ADA establishes the rights of deaf Americans to protect them from discrimination, yet it is a constant battle to have these rights recognized. Deaf individuals aren’t asking for special treatment, they only want access to the same rights and opportunities that all Americans should have.

When does the oppression stop? When will our society accept that deaf people are capable of everything hearing people can do except hear? It is 2015 and there are more than half a million people in the United States who rely on American Sign Language to communicate. Deaf children in schools, deaf patients in hospitals, and deaf citizens of the world deserve equal opportunity. As civil rights advocacy permeates the mainstream, our society is opening up to the importance of cultural competency. In the fight for social justice, let’s make sure we don’t leave the Deaf community behind.

10 Things All Deaf People Should Know About the ADA

ada-american-with-disabilities-act-faq-011. What’s ADA?

ADA stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act. This civil rights law was passed on July 26, 1990 to help secure the rights and freedoms that disabled citizens are entitled to. It was expanded in 2008 by the ADA Amendments Act.

2. Why do we need the ADA?

America is known “as the land of opportunity,” but discrimination prevents many disabled people from participating in everyday life. People who are disabled are regularly denied access to businesses, hospitals, schools, workplaces, and many other locations. Unfortunately, a lack of cultural understanding about disabilities results in a prejudiced population.

3. Who is the ADA for?

ada-american-with-disabilities-act-faq-02From deafness to mobility issues to intellectual disabilities, the ADA protects the rights of ALL Americans who have mental and/or physical medical conditions. The list of disabilities also includes autism, cancer, cerebral palsy, diabetes, epilepsy, HIV, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, and other physical or mental health conditions.

4. How does the ADA apply to people who are deaf?

The ADA requires public and private entities to consider the needs of people who are deaf. Living in a large multicultural country, entities must take responsibility to be accepting and competent of other lifestyles. Instead of just assuming every person who enters a business or uses the services of an organization is able to hear, the ADA requires these entities to plan for deaf consumers.

5. How does the ADA effect jobs?

ada-american-with-disabilities-act-faq-03Title I: Employment is a critical piece of the ADA which helps deaf individuals access employment opportunities. It prohibits employers from inquiring about the existence, nature, or severity of a disability or medical condition until after a job offer has been made. Title I makes it clear that organizations may not reject qualified job candidates on the basis of their disability, and requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” for deaf employees.

6. What is a reasonable accommodation?

Reasonable accommodation often calls for a minor alteration to the typical communication strategy, which will vary on a case-by-case basis. For deaf individuals who use ASL as their primary form of communication, a qualified sign language interpreter is generally the best accommodation for things like meetings, where important information will be exchanged. Other deaf or hard of hearing employees will prefer a text version of the meeting provided by computer aided transcription services (CART).
For brief interactions, say the boss just needs a little more information on a report, an email exchange might be sufficient, or a Video Relay Service might be utilized. The best way to figure out what a reasonable accommodation might be for a certain situation is to simply ask the deaf individual.

7. Where else does the ADA apply?

ada-american-with-disabilities-act-faq-04Under Title II, agencies which operate at a local or state level are required to provide equal access to all services offered by the organization. This includes public hospitals, municipal government buildings, public schools, police stations, and public transportation. A public entity must ensure that its communications with deaf citizens are as effective as communications with others.
Title III expands the ADA to privately owned places of public accommodation and commercial facilities, such as business offices, social service centers, entertainment events, airports and so on. With the exception of private clubs and religious organizations, almost any place open to the public is required to provide some form of auxiliary aid, interpreter, or CART service for deaf/HoH patrons upon request. Deaf individuals aren’t asking for special treatment, they simply expect the same quality of access as everyone else.

8. What steps should be taken to ensure civil rights are not violated?

ada-american-with-disabilities-act-faq-05People who are deaf need to be aware of their rights and ask, preferably in writing, for the accommodations they are entitled to receive under the ADA. I suggest going beyond the gatekeepers, who are often secretaries and administration professionals, to contact management or the HR department. Take the request up the chain of command.
If they are still denied these accommodations, deaf people can contact a local advocacy organization or a licensed civil rights lawyer. While a lawsuit is not the ideal course of action, discrimination based on disability is an act of oppression. Liability lawsuits are often far more costly than providing equal access in the first place.

9. How can businesses ensure they are ADA compliant?

Awareness about these issues usually begins from the top level down. All employees, but especially those who work in administration and management positions, should receive thorough cultural competency training. Additionally, we need to see more disabled employees and consultants in the workforce. The more the general population is exposed to disability, the better they will be able to understand the needs of disabled individuals.

10. How does the ADA help everyone?

ada-american-with-disabilities-act-faq-06At the end of the day, most deaf or otherwise disabled people just want the opportunity to participate in society. Diversity is a great asset, and providing reasonable accommodation for our diverse population should be an expected cost of doing business. Welcoming deaf individuals into all spaces is the law, yes. But it is also the right thing to do.

How to hire a Sign Language Interpreter

Imagine you are hosting an event and a deaf individual approaches you, inquiring about deaf/ hard of hearing accommodations. This happens every day, in a variety of venues, in both the public and private sector. What do you do? How do you communicate? Had you even considered this situation?

One of the biggest barriers between Deaf and hearing cultures is the simple act of requesting an interpreter. Many hearing individuals, as discussed in my previous post, have very little interaction with deaf/ HoH people in their daily lives. When they do encounter someone who requires accommodation, it can feel like a challenge to locate the proper resources. Even more challenging, but equally important, is ensuring you find a high-caliber ASL interpreter for the event.

asl-culture-nycThe first step in hiring a sign language interpreter is seeking out a local agency which specializes in ASL. I strongly advise looking for a Deaf-owned, or interpreter-owned provider. Here in NYC, there are some large agencies which hire out interpreters for a variety of languages. Sadly, these businesses often add ASL to their roster to make more money; with little regard for Deaf culture, or the quality of interpreter they provide. A Deaf-owned or interpreter-owned agency will have the best resources to ensure all your deaf/HoH patrons receive the same experience as your hearing patrons. Equality is the ultimate goal!

When you call the agency, be as specific as possible regarding your interpreting needs. Letting the agency know exactly which type of situation they will how-to-hire-an-asl-interpreterbe accommodating helps to better match you with a qualified interpreter. For example, in a hospital setting, it would be advantageous to hire an interpreter who could not only communicate with both doctors and patients, but one who is also emotionally and mentally prepared to deliver medical news to a patient’s family. If you are able to provide the agency with as much information as possible prior to your event, they can find an interpreter with some background in the field, and allow them to brush up on relevant terminology. A provider who is knowledgeable requires much less preparation, and is capable of providing a much richer interaction.

A professional interpreter will know exactly what to do when they arrive on the job. They will ask appropriate questions regarding standing and seating arrangements, and will request any pertinent info prior to the start of your event. It is a great idea to have an outline ready for your ASL interpreter, which would have key topics, any industry-specific jargon, and a list of important names, places, or figures.

The Federal Government provides financial assistance for businesses to provide deaf/ hard of hearing accommodation. asl-public-interpreterThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that equal access be provided to persons with disabilities by all public entities (government offices, public schools, etc.) and by all services which are provided to the public at large (doctor’s offices, lawyers, etc.). Generally, this means that such entities are required to pay for sign language interpreting services. To assist businesses with complying with the ADA, Section 44 of the IRS Code allows a tax credit for small businesses and Section 190 of the IRS Code allows a tax deduction for all businesses. This credit can cover 50% of the eligible access expenditures in a year (up to $10,250).

While provisions may be required by law, it is up to you whether your Deaf/ hard of hearing patron will receive the same quality of service you offer your hearing patrons. It is prudent to find an interpreter with more than just the national certification. Strong background knowledge, diverse field experience, and cultural competence will go a long way in providing equal accommodations, and curbing the oppression of deaf/HoH individuals.

Currently, in the greater New York City area, there is one Deaf-owned and four interpreter-owned providers, including myself. For more information about my interpreting services, please contact me.