Ask Howard Anything / October 2019

Do we as deaf people have equality yet? No, we know we do not. However, this doesn’t mean we should give up. Together, we can change the system and the world. How can we do this? Facing challenges, being frustrated, and experiencing discrimination is normal for us. We often ask for access or interpreters and are told no. That has to stop. How do we change that? My previous AHA’s have suggested that you ask again after they’ve said no, and along with your second request you should use one of the advocacy letters that the NAD created. We have a series of advocacy letters for different situations such as museums, hospitals, conferences, and so on. You can use these advocacy letters that best fit your situation; either print or email the letter to the person that is handling your request. Having an advocacy letter with your second request will show them what the law requires them to do. If they agree to providing accommodations, great! Tell us your success stories, we want to know! If they tell you no again, don’t allow yourself to feel stuck or discouraged — continue to advocate for yourself. There are two different alternatives you can do. One is to take them to court and sue them. Keep in mind, the legal process is a challenge itself because it is time consuming. It takes time to find the right lawyer and then the lawyer needs time to consider the case to take it or not. From there, filing the case with the court takes time as well — it may take years. Some cases may resolve quicker than others. You may contact the NAD to see if we can be your lawyers, however we only have a few staff attorneys who can look at cases and take on a few. We receive inquiries from all over the U.S. and cannot accept them all. The NAD determines which case impacts many deaf and hard of hearing people, and has the potential to change the system. Cases that change the system help everyone else The NAD doesn’t have resources to help every case so we select specific cases that can change the system. The cases that we don’t take on, we always refer them to other lawyers in your area that are familiar with discrimination. We receive a lot of inquiries and do our best to respond to all in a timely manner, every month. The second thing you can do, instead of waiting, is to file a complaint yourself. All federal agencies oversee specific areas of discrimination against deaf and hard of hearing people. Each agency has different responsibilities. For example, the Department of Transportation is responsible for access on planes, bus, and trains. The Department of Education is responsible for access to K-12 and post-secondary education. The Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for hospitals and mental health. The Department of Justice is responsible for a lot of areas under the ADA. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is responsible for TV captioning and access to phones. I’m only sharing a few agencies as an example. It can be overwhelming to figure out which agency is responsible for which area and with which you should file a complaint. To address this, the NAD put together a page that lists complaints for specific situations, on our “How to File a Complaint” webpage. You can explore the included link in this post You can find your topic that best fits your situation, and use that to file a complaint. So for example, if your situation is about something that happened during your flight, hospital visit, TV captioning, movie captioning, K-12 and post-secondary education access, law enforcement, employment, housing, hang-ups on relay calls, and more — we have step by step instructions available on that page for each area. Each topic will take you to the federal agency responsible and you can file a complaint with them. This page is very resourceful and useful if you don’t want to go down the time-consuming route of filing a lawsuit. You can advocate for yourself by filing a complaint. Let us know your experience using the How to File a Complaint page, we want to know what happens — both good and bad results! The more action we take with our complaints, the more powerful we are. Often, federal agencies tell the NAD that no one from the deaf community complains and everything is fine. We know this is not true — all of us have experienced problems and discrimination. If we all work together and file many complaints,
they will know better and work to change the system for everyone’s benefit. We can do it! Thank you.

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