Advocating for Access
People who are deaf or hard of hearing must remember that enforcement of their rights to communications access is not like enforcing speed limits where there are thousands of policemen in patrol cars hiding behind roadside billboards with their radar guns turned on and pointed at oncoming traffic just waiting to catch speeders. Rather, enforcement of our communications access rights is a complaint driven process. No matter how serious the violation, absolutely nothing will be done unless you complain. So please file a complaint every time you feel that you have been discriminated against because of your hearing loss. Only by doing so can we guarantee that our accessibility rights will not be lost, and can we improve communications access for all deaf and hard of hearing people.
Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) guarantees people who are deaf or hard of hearing “reasonable accommodations” because of their hearing loss in the workplace.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing Title I of the ADA. So, for example, if you have a complaint against your employer for not making staff meetings communications accessible, or a complaint against your employer for not providing a hearing aid compatible telephone to aid you in making and receiving phone calls necessary in your job, or a complaint against a prospective employer for not providing requested communications access for your job interview, then go file your Title I complaint with the EEOC.
On Public Accommodations
Title II of the ADA says that state and local governments must make their programs and services accessible to people with disabilities and must provide “effective communication” to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Title III of the ADA requires public accommodations to provide “auxiliary aids and services” upon request by people with hearing loss. The bottom line is that the ADA and other federal laws and regulations prohibit discriminating against deaf and hard of hearing people simply because of their hearing loss.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is responsible for enforcing Title II and Title III of the ADA. So, for example, if you have a complaint against your city for not providing communications access at city council meetings, or a complaint against your county sheriff’s office for not providing you an interpreter upon request when you were arrested and explained your rights under the Miranda Warning, then go file your Title II complaint with DOJ.
If you have a complaint against a hospital for not providing a TTY in your room when requested so you could make outgoing telephone calls like hearing patients, or a complaint against a lawyer for not providing requested communications access at the “closing” when you were buying a home, then go file your Title III complaint with DOJ.
The FCC is responsible for enforcing federal regulations that guarantee communications access to television programs for deaf and hard of hearing people. So, for example, if you have a complaint about a new TV show that wasn’t captioned, or a complaint about captions on a show that disappeared before the program ended, or a complaint that captions were covered by a severe weather warning, then go file your complaint with the FCC.