For people with hearing loss, the world presents some unique challenges. Luckily, there’s a range of assistive devices from closed captioning to telecoils that can help people with hearing loss interact and communicate. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) set forth the basic rights of people with disabilities. Getting familiar with your ADA rights can help you know when disability assistance is protected by law and what action you can take if your rights are denied.
Fair Employment (Title I)
You have a right to non-discriminatory employment. State and federal governments, along with any employer with 15 or more employees is required to abide by non-discrimination rules. These rules include providing accommodations for hearing loss that allow you equal access to information and communication, such as meetings, negotiations and training. Adapting employment communication to your hearing loss is to happen at no expense to the disabled employee.
If your rights as a hearing-disabled employee are being violated, your first step is to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or a comparable State organization. Complaints to the EEOC must be made within 6 months (180 days) of the ADA violation. After review, the EEOC may issue you a letter which gives you the right to litigate. The ADA’s provisions protect those with disabilities from retaliation for asserting their rights. You cannot be fired for filing a complaint of ADA violation against your employer.
Government Services (Title II)
All local, state and federal government services must be made accessible to you at no charge. This means that when informed of your hearing loss, accommodations must be made for effective communication, prioritizing the type of assistance you request. This allows people with hearing impairment equal access to courts, public schools and hospitals and social services.
Title II covers the wide range of government agencies and services. Access to public libraries and their programming, to city-owned parks and recreation, town meetings and local government facilities are all covered by Title II of the ADA.
It is illegal for states to “opt out” of adhering to ADA regulations. The rules apply to all government branches and services in the United States. If you find your rights to government access are being denied, you may file an ADA Title II complaint. Title II violation complaints can be accessed online via the ADA’s website.
Access to Businesses (Title III)
Your rights protected by Title III of the ADA require business establishments to accommodate your hearing loss. Title III regulations cover your rights in businesses of all types. It includes safety issues, such as hotels providing shaking or flashing emergency alarms for those with hearing loss, to inclusion services like closed captioning or telecoil loops in churches and theaters to basic communication accommodations, such as written information in retail shops.
Your right to equal access to businesses and public accommodations is ensured no matter how large or small the business is. The National Association of the Deaf has published their Public Accommodations memo which outlines ways that businesses can adhere to ADA regulations and better accommodate their customers with hearing loss. Filing a complaint for a Title III violation is done in writing to the U.S. Department of Justice. The ADA website outlines the procedure to take when filing a complaint.
Telecommunication (Title IV)
The fourth section of the ADA establishes ways for those with disabilities to access telecommunication services, with the establishment of free-of-charge options. This includes access to 7-1-1 telecommunication relay services (TRS), which provides communication assistants for those who rely on TTY phones or text messaging for their hearing or speech disability. Another free service is video relay services (VRS) which is a free subscription program and can be accessed via smart phones, video equipped computers and video phones. With VRS services, calls are placed with the assistance of an intermediary video interpreter who signs the conversation in real time to the hearing impaired party.
In addition to the ADA, disability right advocates are continuing the push for education and expansion of accessibility. Recent laws have expanded the rights of disabled airline passengers, and have ensured that modern telephones are made to be compatible with hearing aids and assistive devices. The Hearing Loss Association of America collects information and news about disability rights with a special focus on how they pertain to and affect those with hearing loss.
You don’t have to live with untreated hearing loss. Increase your accessibility today by scheduling a hearing test at Greentree Hearing & Audiology.