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ADA & Advocacy
From the World Federation of the Deaf, on Human Rights
One of the most important priorities in the work of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) is to ensure human rights for Deaf people all over the world, in every aspect of life. Human rights are universal and they belong to everyone regardless of sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status such as disability or deafness. Thus, Deaf people are entitled to exercise civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights on an equal basis with everyone else.
Unfortunately, though, the rights of Deaf people are often overlooked, especially in developing countries. Societal prejudices and barriers prevent Deaf people from enjoying full human rights; for Deaf people the major barrier is lack of recognition, acceptance and use of sign language in all areas of life as well as lack of respect for Deaf people’s cultural and linguistic identity.
Most of the Deaf people do not get any education in developing countries and approximately 80 % of the world’s 70 million Deaf people do not have any access to education. Only about 1-2 % of the Deaf get education in sign language. Particularly situation of Deaf women and children is weak. Legal development and recognition of sign languages promotes Deaf people’s equal participation in the society.
Within this focus, WFD advises the UN and its agencies on specific issues and policies which affect Deaf people. It represents the Deaf community within the UN system and supports Deaf associations and authorities throughout the world by providing consultancy, expertise and advice.
How to understand deaf rights?
Even though Deaf people have the same rights as everyone else, implementation of four basic factors is tantamount to the protection of the human rights of Deaf people:
Sign languages in each country are natural languages of Deaf people. The very general misunderstanding is that sign language is universal, the same in every country. In reality, sign languages vary from country to country just as spoken languages do. Each natural sign language that is being used by Deaf community is part of the country’s cultural, social, historical and religious heritage. In order to preserve the full heritage of each country, it is necessary to respect sign languages. Recognition of sign language(s) is also a way to enhance and give respect to the overall linguistic and cultural heritage of each country and of humankind.
The enrollment rate and literacy among Deaf children is far below the average for the population at large. Illiteracy and semi-literacy are serious problems among Deaf people.
Like all children, Deaf children must have access to equal and quality education. Deaf children are born with the same basic capacities for learning and language as all children; they can and should reach their full potential with quality educational programs.
Deaf children learn best in sign language. A bilingual approach is becoming more popular in many countries. It means that teaching language is sign language in all subjects for Deaf children. At the same time, it has a strong emphasis on teaching reading and writing skills of the language used in the country or society. This approach has facilitated in good learning results, because it supports the natural learning and communication environment of a Deaf child.
Bilingual education has become more widespread in particular in North Europe and North America. It has showed good results with increased literacy level and a strong language base, which equips for better success in the broad range of educational subjects.
For Deaf people, barriers to access are rarely about physical obstacles. More often the barriers lie in lack of accessible information, whether this information comes through direct interaction with other people who do not use sign language, or from other sources (e.g. mass media, documents, etc.). In direct interaction, accessibility often rests upon the availability of sign language interpreters. In other information distribution, Deaf people’s right to obtain information in sign language should extend into official documents (sign language translations), mass media (sign language news and programmes) and many other issues in order to increase Deaf people’s opportunities to make free and informed decisions.
A key factor for accessibility to government services or any other service run by institutions where the personnel do not use sign language, is the right to sign language interpreter. Societies need to create a system for provision of and equal access to sign language interpreters for all situations where they are requested. The Deaf person or associations of the Deaf should not be responsible for the related expenses, instead, these services should be provided by the society, without creating any costs or economic disadvantage to Deaf individual or Deaf association.
Sign language interpreting is a profession that serves both Deaf and hearing people, and the profession requires training. Thus, states need to create educational programmes to train and qualify sign language interpreters. Knowing some sign language, and a commitment to Deaf and hearing people to communicate, is not a qualification to become or serve as a sign language interpreter. In addition, sign language interpreters must follow a Code of Ethics of the country in order to preserve professional confidentiality and good understanding of the duties and roles that are required from a professional sign language interpreter.
Sign language is at the core of Deaf people’s lives; sign language makes accessibility for Deaf people possible; without accessibility, Deaf people will be isolated. Thus, full enjoyment of human rights for Deaf people is based on the recognition and respect for Deaf culture and identity. Everywhere in the world, language creates culture and vice versa.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, State and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation. It also mandates the establishment of TDD/telephone relay services. The current text of the ADA includes changes made by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-325), which became effective on January 1, 2009. The ADA was originally enacted in public law format and later rearranged and published in the United States Code.
THE 2010 REGULATIONS
On Friday, July 23, 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder signed final regulations revising the Department's ADA regulations, including its ADA Standards for Accessible Design. The official text was published in the Federal Register on September 15, 2010 (corrections to this text were published in the Federal Register on March 11, 2011).
The revised regulations amend the Department's 1991 title II regulation (State and local governments), 28 CFR Part 35, and the 1991 title III regulation (public accommodations), 28 CFR Part 36. Appendix A to each regulation includes a section-by-section analysis of the rule and responses to public comments on the proposed rule.
These final rules went into effect on March 15, 2011, and were published in the 2011 edition of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).
THE 1991 REGULATIONS
ADA Regulation for Title II, as printed in the Federal Register on July 26, 1991, and effective until March 15, 2011.
Title I Employment
Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to private employers and state or local governments as employers. ADA Title I prohibits employers, employment agencies, labor unions and joint labor-management committees from discriminating against persons with disabilities. Title I applies only to employers with 15 or more employees.
Statute and Regulations: http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/disability.cfm
Filing a Complaint under ADA Title I (Employment)
Title I complaints must be filed with the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 days of the date of discrimination, or 300 days if the charge is filed with a designated State or local fair employment practice agency. Individuals may file a lawsuit in court only after they receive a right-to-sue€¯ letter from the EEOC. For more information about filing employment-related disability discrimination complaints, please visit http://www.eeoc.gov.
Related Issue: Employment
Title II State and Local Governments
Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires state and local governments to make their programs, services, and activities accessible to individuals with disabilities, including individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Statute and Regulations: http://www.ada.gov/publicat.htm
In 2008, the U.S. Department of Justice proposed new rules for Title II of the ADA, which apply to state and local governments. The NAD filed comprehensive comments in response to those proposed new rules. See NAD Comments to ADA Title II Proposed Rules. No new rules have been issued, yet.
You may use the NAD Memo State and Local Government Services to inform and advocate for equal access to state and local government programs, services, and activities. This NAD Memo provides general information about Title II of the ADA that applies to all types of state and local agencies, including courts, schools, social service agencies, hospitals, legislatures, commissions and councils, recreational facilities, libraries, and state/county/city departments and agencies of all kinds.
Other NAD Memos apply to specific state and local government activities, such as health care providers, hospitals and other health care facilities, police and law enforcement, state and local courts, and jails and prisons.
See also LaCheen, Cary, Improving Remote Communication Between Public Benefits Agencies and Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Individuals, Clearinghouse Review, Journal of Poverty Law and Policy, Vol. 43, Nos. 9-10, 431-439 (2001).
Filing a Complaint under ADA Title II (State and Local Governments)
When you encounter discrimination by state and local governments, you may file an ADA Title II complaint. A form for filing a complaint is available online at http://www.ada.gov/t2cmpfrm.htm. You do not need to use the form, but the form will help you know the kind of information you should include in your complaint. You must file a complaint within 180 days of the discrimination. You may also file a lawsuit in state or federal court.
Title III Public Accommodations (Businesses)
Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires businesses open to the public to ensure that individuals with a disability have equal access to all that the businesses have to offer. ADA Title III covers a wide range of places of public accommodation, including retail stores and the wide range of service businesses such as hotels, theaters, restaurants, doctors' and lawyers' offices, optometrists, dentists, banks, insurance agencies, museums, parks, libraries, day care centers, recreational programs, social service agencies, and private schools. It covers both profit and non-profit organizations. Unlike the employment section of the ADA, which only applies to employers with 15 or more employees, ADA Title III applies to all businesses, regardless of size.
Statute and Regulations: http://www.ada.gov/publicat.htm
In 2008, the U.S. Department of Justice proposed new rules for Title III of the ADA, which apply to places of public accommodation (businesses). The NAD filed comprehensive comments in response to those proposed new rules. See NAD Comments to ADA Title III Proposed Rules. No new rules have been issued, yet.
You may use the NAD Memo Public Accommodations, which provides general information about ADA Title III, to inform and advocate for equal access to many different kinds of businesses.
Other NAD Memos apply to specific businesses, such as private schools, higher education, and other educational opportunities, health care providers, hospitals and other health care facilities, lawyers and legal services, and hotels and motels.
An additional NAD Memo can be used to inform and advocate for access to Trade Shows and Exhibitions (which includes a Model ADA Policy€¯).
Filing a Complaint under ADA Title III (Public Accommodations)
When you encounter discrimination by businesses that are open to the public, you can file a Title III complaint. You can find more information about filing a Title III complaint athttp://www.ada.gov/t3compfm.htm. There is no time limit for filing an ADA Title III complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice, but you should file as soon as possible. You may also file a lawsuit in state or federal court.
Title IV Telecommunications Relay Services
Title IV of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 mandated a nationwide system of telecommunications relay services to make the telephone network accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing or who have speech impairments. Title IV of the ADA added Section 225 to the Communications Act of 1934.
Related Issue: Telephones and Relay Services
Title V Miscellaneous Provisions
Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) contains provisions that are not covered in other parts of the ADA. These provisions include:
Americans with Disabilities Act - Information and Technical Assistance
Disability and Communication Access Board (DCAB)
Hawaii Disability Rights Center
Danielle Beaver & Frank Ury, Attorneys at Law, at http://www.
National Association of the Deaf - Advocacy and Law Center
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