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Hearing Impaired Individuals: Know your ADA!

ADA-Audicus-Hearing-Aids-hearing-impaired

Established in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act stands to eliminate discrimination and ensures equal opportunities for persons with disabilities in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities and transportation. The ADA protects and enforces equal conditions for American individuals with disabilities such as spinal injuries, psychiatric impairments, and extremity impairments, as well as hearing-impaired individuals.

Read on to learn about previous lawsuits filed under the ADA by hearing impaired individuals exercising their rights.

Hearing-Impaired Case One: Department of Justice vs. Inova Fairfax Hospital

In April 2007, the Department of Justice won a case under the ADA against Inova Fairfax Hospital located  in the suburbs of Washington D.C. The settlement states that the hospital did not respond to requests for a sign language interpreter for the deaf mother of a pregnant patient who had been involved in a car crash.

The patient had repeatedly requested for an interpreter from her arrival in the ER and did not receive one until 5 1/2 hours later. As a result, the patient had to act as the interpreter while she was under distress.

In the settlement, the hospital agreed to pay $55,000 in damages to the aggrieved patient and her mother, as well as $25,000 in civil fees and committed to bolstering ADA training for its employees. These positive changes show a willingness to improve conditions for people with disabilities, especially at an important moment when medical care is involved.

A Second Case of Hearing-Impaired Issues: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission vs. FedEx

In 2008, The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) rallied against the global shipping giant, FedEx for failing to provide a reasonable accommodation to Ronald Lockhard, a package handler who also suffers from profound deafness. The suit arose from Lockhard’s multiple denied requests for FedEx provide reasonable accommodations to him in the form of American Sign Language interpreters.

In the end, the jury ruled that FedEx must pay $108,000 as a failure to accommodate their hearing-impaired employee. This ruling shows employers the importance of assisting their employees and making sure they are all getting accommodated to do their jobs properly based on their needs.

National Association of the Deaf et al. vs. Netflix: a Third Court Case Involved the Hearing Impaired

In 2010, deaf Massachusetts resident Lee Nettles partnered up with the National Association of the Deaf and the Western Massachusetts Association of the Deaf and Hearing Impaired to have Netflix, the world’s leading internet television network, offer closed captioning for all their movies and shows.

Nettles said that Netflix was being discriminatory towards people with hearing loss because these people were forced to pay for the more expensive DVD rentals in order to enjoy captioning. In 2012 Netflix reached an agreement to have closed captioning available for all of its streamed content within two years. Today, we already see that there is a huge improvement in making captioning happen.

Michael Argenyi vs. Creighton University: a Hearing-Impaired Med Student Takes on a University

Represented by the National Association of the Deaf, deaf medical student Michael Argenyi won his ADA case against Creighton University in September 2013. Argenyi had requested to be provided with real time captioning for his classes as well as oral interpreters for his clinics.

The University refused and Argenyi had to borrow over $100,000 to provide for his own accommodations so that he could stay in medical school. The court ruled against Creighton University citing that they are required to provide auxiliary aid and services to allow meaningful access and equal opportunity for learning. This decision was noted as an historic vote in support for disabled students to have full and equal access in the classroom.

by Esther Shasho

One response to “Hearing Impaired Individuals: Know your ADA!

  1. Recently I had an over-the-phone court conference call for a child support case. (Long story short, the defendant–who had voluntarily neglected his child support payments for many months–was trying to get his child support obligation thrown out entirely‚Ķa real deadbeat dad, right?) I was in the privacy of my home when I received the court conference call. The person heading the hearing (not a real judge, from what I’ve found on Google) asked me if I had her on speaker phone, then told me at the start of the call to take her off speaker phone, then asked me why I felt the need to have speaker phone on my phone. I explained that I am hard of hearing and in fact put ALL of my phone calls on speaker phone, since the speaker phone option is a good bit louder than the regular phone volume. She dismissed this notion and told me I had to take it off speaker phone, then blamed it on technical difficulty issues she was having with the speaker phone on her court’s end. During the conference, she dismissed my previously determined child support case entirely by claiming that the deadbeat defendant’s undocumented claim of “depression” deemed him “unable to work a job or to pay child support”. She then told me that “it’s the law” to let him off the hook, which I presumed meant that she was afraid of the possibility of violating ADA/disabilities rights laws if the defendant turned out to actually have a valid, documentable mental illness/depression issue. So basically she protected HIS supposed “disability” (which was undocumented, undiagnosed, and unverified) yet trampled upon my partial auditory impairment. Do I have a case against her on the basis of discrimination or at least “conflict of interest”? Please help.

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