HLAA marks 32nd Anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA),
calls for more progress on accessible listening
48 million Americans have hearing loss, many still don’t have accessible communications required by ADA
ROCKVILLE, Md. — The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) – the leading voice for the growing number of Americans with hearing loss – marks the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), with a call for more progress on accessible communication. HLAA participated in the passage of the landmark 1990 civil rights legislation, requiring equal access for people with disabilities in public spaces, jobs, schools, transportation, and government services.
HLAA was instrumental in getting accessible communications, such as captioning and assistive listening systems, included in the ADA over three decades ago, and still advocates on behalf of the 48 million Americans who have hearing loss. HLAA wants people with hearing loss to understand their rights by visiting hearingloss.org/KnowYourRights.
“There’s no question that accessibility has improved over the last 32 years, but there’s a long way to go, especially when it comes to accessibility for invisible disabilities like hearing loss,” says Barbara Kelley, executive director of HLAA. “We’ve become accustomed to looking for curb cutouts and wheelchair-accessible elevators, but many people don’t know that those same public places are also required to have assistive listening systems for people with hearing loss,” she explains.
Public places like movie theatres, lecture halls, stadiums — and anywhere with a public address system — are required to provide access to special listening systems and devices for patrons with hearing loss, but according to HLAA, equipment is often missing, broken or non-existent.
Another area that often lacks accessibility is the workplace. A recent survey of people with hearing loss conducted by HLAA found 44% reported accessibility issues on the job, which can lead to frustration, isolation, and job loss. Accessible communication in health care is also a common and serious problem, according to HLAA.
“The ADA requires both employers and health care providers to provide accessible listening systems or captioning to people with hearing loss on request, but these systems are often missing or inadequate,” says Lise Hamlin, HLAA’s director of public policy. “You can imagine the dangers of not fully understanding your doctor’s instructions because your telehealth appointment doesn’t have captions available, or you were unable to get the proper listening device in the emergency room to know what’s happening to a loved one,” adds Hamlin.
HLAA notes that accessibility doesn’t always mean providing a sign language interpreter, since many who have hearing loss don’t use American Sign Language (ASL). Accessible technology — like hearing loop systems that feed into hearing aids or amplifying receivers, or real-time captioning that provides the text of the spoken word — may be needed instead.
HLAA is urging people to learn what accommodations are available, by visiting hearingloss.org/KnowYourRights, and taking steps to file a complaint if they’re not provided.
“After 32 years, it’s time to demand more. People with hearing loss, and all people with disabilities, deserve to have equal access to public spaces, work, school, and health care. It’s up to people with disabilities themselves to know their rights and file complaints if they don’t get access,” says Barbara Kelley.
HLAA also urges all Americans to get their hearing checked, and not to wait to get treated. Untreated hearing loss is linked to cognitive decline, depression, dementia, and falls. HLAA provides ongoing employment and health care access resources, to empower people to live full lives with hearing loss.
About the Hearing Loss Association of America
The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) is the nation’s leading organization representing the growing number of people with hearing loss in the U.S. Its mission is to open the world of communication to people with hearing loss through information, education, support, and advocacy.
HLAA was instrumental in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) more than 30 years ago, and still fights for the rights of people with hearing loss at local and national levels and offers support online and in chapters across the country.
HLAA’s Walk4Hearing events raise awareness and funds in cities across the country and offer support to families dealing with hearing loss. HLAA also publishes Hearing Life magazine and other news and important resources at hearingloss.org.