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If you live with hearing loss, you know that it can impact almost every aspect of your life. Hearing loss means facing new challenges, especially when it comes to communicating and engaging with others. It is important to understand that, as a person with hearing loss, there are laws in place to make the world more equitable and accessible for those with disabilities.
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
After years of organizing and activism, a sweeping piece of legislation was signed into federal law in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA. The ADA, based heavily upon the Civil Rights Act of 1964, established guidelines for employment rights, accessible construction, access to public transportation and government as well as public accommodations such as hotels and restaurants for individuals with disabilities. In effect, the ADA has done much to integrate accommodations for disabilities into public architecture and expand access.
Workers with hearing loss should understand that businesses and entities with more than 15 employees are bound to the employment law set out by the ADA. As outlined, employers cannot ask you about your disability or base hiring decisions upon your hearing loss. Additionally, reasonable accommodations need to be made for employees with disabilities to access full privileges of employment, including promotion and pay as well as social activities and training.
Accessing resources in your workplace may require you to disclose your hearing loss, but employers are not allowed to publicly disclose your disability. You have the right to seek accommodations for your hearing loss at your workplace without professional consequences.
Trains, busses and other forms of public transportation are subject to regulation by the ADA to make them more accessible. This means provisions for those with mobility needs as well as clear communication methods for those with impairments such as hearing loss. For example, new public transport vehicles may indicate stops through audio announcement along with a readable sign alert. Hearing impaired riders have the right to ask for special signaling of their stop if it is not otherwise available.
The ADA put into place guidelines for public accessibility for people with disabilities. Public accessibility includes a wide range of society – stores, schools, homeless shelters and entertainment centers are all subject to public accessibility law, as are many other establishments. Public accessibility includes wheelchair-inclusive architecture and parking, and the removal of pre-existing restrictive barriers.
Public accessibility regulation also means that communication accommodations must be available for those with vision speech and hearing difficulty. For people with hearing loss these accommodations take several forms. Here are a few examples:
-Hotels and motels should be able to provide you with alert systems and alarms for the hearing impaired that rely on light and vibration in addition to amplified sound signals.
-Theaters, airports, and sports arenas broadcast important public audio information and announcements via telecoil or closed loop transmission which can be streamed directly to the ear canal for those who use a telecoil-equipped hearing aid.
-Public venues where private communication is necessary such as banks and pharmacies will often employ small telecoil loops to facilitate conversations at a service counter.
After the ADA went into law, it’s philosophy of accessibility has extended into other legislation as well. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 included accessibility for those with disabilities in the design and implementation of new communication technologies. Communication access is fundamental for those with hearing loss, and the Telecommunications Act opened up the right to accessible communication technology.
For those with hearing loss, phones that provide captioning, non-audio alerts, amplified sound and facilitated calls can all act as a way to make communicating with others easier and more available. New phones and technology are also expanding options. Many smartphones now pair with hearing aids to stream sound for better clarity and texting communication is common and widespread.
Fair Housing Act
Before the ADA, the Fair Housing Act established strict standards of non-discrimination in housing. This prohibits discrimination in housing access based on a disability such as deafness or hearing loss. The Fair Housing Act also entitles tenants with disabilities to make reasonable modifications to their living space to facilitate accessibility (although landlords are not financially responsible for these modifications).
Seeking Treatment for Hearing Loss
If you have been struggling to hear, it is important to seek treatment for hearing loss. We’re here to help! Contact us today to learn more about our comprehensive hearing health services.