Next year, 2010, we will reach the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the civil rights law for people with disabilities. It’s time to ask: are the barriers gone, have we reached full accessibility for all people all the time? The answer: I don’t think so.
One of the problems in reaching for full accessibility for people with hearing loss is that we are not one monolithic group: there is no one easy answer, no one accommodation that suits us all. It is time to make it clear we need to ensure full access for all. It is time for the following of best practices to become the norm. Some of these go beyond current federal law.
These Best Practices are for individuals or organizations advocating for greater accessibility, or for agencies, businesses and organizations reaching out to the community to ensure participation by greater numbers of people with hearing loss in their events and meetings. These Best Practices are based on the principle that whenever and wherever information is provided orally, it should also be accessible to the widest audience possible.
- Whether or not a public address system is used, at a minimum, CART (Communication Access Real-Time Translation), Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) and sign language interpreters must be provided.
- In situations where a specific accommodation has been requested by an individual, the individual’s request should be honored.
- A dedicated stream of funding should be established to provide any and all accommodations and services needed.
Staff must be trained so they will have a basic understanding of providing accommodations:
- the various accommodations available
- how and where to make requests to put the accommodations in place for both technology and services
- how to ensure proper set-up for the best use of the technology and services
- how to ensure that technology is maintained in good working order
- When an agency provides direct services to people who are hard of hearing or deaf, some or all of the staff must have a clear understanding of current technology used and issues faced by people who are hard of hearing who use their voice and residual hearing. This is in addition to staff fluent in sign language who can communicate directly with people who use sign language.
- When promoting events, it should be clear on all publicity that all of these accommodations will be used and available to attendees.
- Signage must be provided at the event indicating the type of communication access in place.