“The Americans with Disabilities Act champions human rights themes by declaring that people with disabilities are an integral part of society and, as such, should not be segregated, isolated, or subjected to the effects of discrimination.” –An excerpt from Equality of Opportunity: The Making of the Americans with Disabilities Act by The National Council on Disability
The single most important piece of legislation for the deaf and hard of hearing may be the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which became law in 1990. The ADA, as well as other legal protections put into place before and after it, benefits and protects all disabled individuals in the United States and helps to prevent discrimination based on medical conditions.
Although these legal protections have made the world a safer and fairer place for deaf and hard of hearing communities, people with hearing difficulties are still often subjected to discrimination, prejudice and even violence. If you are hard of hearing or have a family member with hearing loss, it is vital that you become informed on the rights you are guaranteed to–in schools, in the workplace, and in interactions with law enforcement. Information is power, and if you feel that you or someone you love has been the subject of discrimination, there are legal steps you can take to make sure your civil rights are upheld.
When dealing with law enforcement
In recent years, there have been too many incidents of deaf people being hurt or killed in interactions with police, as a result of a tragic misunderstanding. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, staying safe when interacting with law enforcement means making your condition apparent right away.
If you are ever stopped by a police officer be sure to have your visor card easily accessible and visible to the officer. Attached to the sun visor above your steering wheel, a visor card is something which tells officers that you have a hearing problem and offers guidelines on how to successfully communicate with the driver.
If you are arrested, know that you have the right to request an interpreter if you feel you need one.
When at Work
You employer does not have the right to ask if you have hearing loss during a job interview. This serves to limit the employer using hearing ability as a factor in deciding which candidate to pick for the job. They are also unable to ask you to take a medical test before offering you a role with the company. They can, however enquire about whether you can work in a noisy environment or meet basic safety standards.
They are also required to take ‘reasonable’ action to help you perform better at work with your hearing loss, as long as it isn’t too difficult or expensive. This might range from providing a sign language interpreter during meetings or installing assistive listening devices in the workplace. If you require help of this kind, be sure to make your employer aware of your rights and what you require from the company. You will need to prove your condition before any accommodations can be considered.
If you work in an especially noisy environment that exceeds 85 decibels for 8 hours or more, OSHA guidelines require employers to provide hearing protection that can include but is not limited to: earplugs, insulation, employee training and audiometric testing.
If you feel your employer has not provided adequate support with this, you can file a Title 1 complaint with the EEOC within 180 days of the incident. Once you have received a ‘right to sue’ response, you may file a lawsuit.
Your children’s rights at school
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, your child’s public school needs to provide hearing assistive systems to help those with hearing loss. Your child could expect to receive interpreters, equipment or special consideration with seating. For more information, consult your education provider.
Again, if you suspect your school is not doing enough the address the needs of your hearing-impaired child, you may file a complaint with the US Department of Education.
The thing all of those who have difficulty hearing want is to be able to contribute to the society that they live in like everyone else. By helping them feel more welcome and enabling them to do the best work they can, we can help build a better and more inclusive society.
Visit Us at Exceptional Hearing Care
For all of your hearing health needs, visit us at Exceptional Hearing Care. We offer comprehensive hearing tests. If a hearing loss detected, our team will work with you to find the best hearing aid solution to treat your hearing needs.