Posted on Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Equal Access for Deaf and Hard of Hearing

A group of friends discuss equal access for deaf and hearing of hearing people

People who have hearing loss can have difficulties navigating the hearing world.
The everyday activities that some people take for granted—conversing on the phone, sitting at a meeting, traveling, going to a movie can present difficulties for someone with hearing loss. That’s why equal access has become such an important issues for deaf and hard of hearing individuals and for those who understand the importance of equality for all.

According to the U.S. Health and Human Services department, “The landmark Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA" or "the Act"), enacted on July 26, 1990, provides comprehensive civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities in the areas of employment, public accommodations, State and local government services, and telecommunications.” This means that qualified individuals with disabilities should be accommodated in order to provide them access to U.S. services, programs. Although many strides have been made for equal access thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act there are still many venues and places of employment that deaf and hard of hearing individuals are excluded from. That’s why there is a greater push toward having closed captioning and induction loops at public transportation. It’s also why you’ll see more sign language interpreters at public events and conventions.

Ways to Provide Equal Access
Americans are devoted to fairness and justice. When a situation unfolds that is blatantly unfair for people, like those with hearing problems, the natural inclination should be to move toward making things more equal for all. Providing equal access to citizens who are deaf and hard of hearing, not only to government services, but to information and technology are situations slowly becoming more fair as laws and organizations step up to even out the playing field. Below are ways you or your company can begin to provide equal access for everyone.

Induction Loop--Hearing Loop LogoHearing Loop Logo Induction loops are used to transmit signals directly to hearing aids to make information available to hard of hearing individuals. When traveling oversees many public places—churches, museums, even taxis, are marked with a hearing loop logo. This means any hearing aid equipped with a T-coil or tele coil can be switched on, delivering news and important information directly into the hearing aids. Joining the movement to get more induction loops installed in public places is a good way to help support equal access for all. Find out more at Hearing Loop.org Note: (90% of today’s hearing aids are equipped with a T-coil or tele coil.)

Sign Language Interpreter-- A sign language interpreter translates oral language to sign language, a series of letters and symbols created through hand movements that conveyed language, for the deaf and hard of hearing. Education venues, courtrooms, boardrooms, churches, and museum tours are all places that a person certified as a sign language interpreter can help provide equal access. To learn more about hiring a certified sign language interpreter for your event, check out this post on hiring a sign language interpreter

Assistive listening devices (ALD)—can help diminish background noise in airports and other noisy public places and make traveling safer. Assistive listening devices serve an important function, allowing people with hearing loss the same accessibility to information and communication as people with average hearing.

Closed Captioning--Subtitling not only movies or television, but screens in airports, train stations, police stations, or work conferences are all starts toward equal access for the deaf and hearing of hearing. In October of 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, which, in part, requires television broadcast redistributed on the Internet to have closed captioning.

Hearing Health Insurance--A large part of equal access is the recognition by employers that hearing health is of utmost importance for their employees. Untreated hearing loss increases miscommunication on the job, resulting in costly mistakes, lost revenue, and wasted time. To learn more about obtaining hearing health insurance click Here.

Cell Phones--There are laws that make it necessary for cell phone makers to provide phones that are compatible with all hearing aids, but some cell phone carriers do have a more efficient delivery system for all hearing aids. As the FCC points out, “…it is easier to meet hearing aid compatibility standards on systems that use a Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) air interface (including Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel) than on systems that use a Global System for Mobile (GSM) (such as AT&T Mobility and T-Mobile) air interface."

Equal Access Recent Successes
Recently, an avenue of employment was opened to deaf and hard of hearing individuals when the Department of Transportation removed their long held restriction on people who are deaf or having hearing loss being able to operate commercial vehicles like large trucks. This combined with recent success within the equal access movement are giving hope to many people that they will one day have an easier time navigating the hearing world.

If you'd like to learn more, see your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

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