Hearing Loss Organizations Provide Recommendations to Obama Administration – Part One

Hearing Loss Organizations Provide Recommendations to Obama Administration – Part One

Editor: I’m so excited by the advocacy efforts of some of the hearing loss organizations and by what appears to be a very receptive climate within the Obama administration. A meeting to discuss hearing loss issues was convened before the Obama inauguration, and the hearing loss organizations presented a comprehensive list of recommendations. Here’s the release from TDI, one of the organizations in the impromptu coalition.

This is part one of two parts.

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January 2009

TDI and other organizations have spoken loud and clear our intent to participate fully with the Obama Administration. Shortly after the election, the Obama-Biden Transition Team issued a call for disability organizations and coalitions to express their ideas on what they would like to see from the 44th President. An ad-hoc coalition of eleven national organizations and coalitions representing 36 million deaf and hard of hearing Americans responded by sending a list of forty-six recommendations in seven policy areas for the Obama Cabinet to consider (see list below).

Claude Stout, Executive Director of TDI and Chair of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Consumer Action Network (DHHCAN), and Jim House, TDI’s Public Relations Officer, took leadership roles by initiating, drafting, negotiating compromise and reaching the consensus necessary for the production of this document. DHHCAN is a coalition of 19 organizations that represent the deaf and hard of hearing population. The document stands as a testament to the results achieved through collaborative efforts. In addition to presenting this document to the Obama-Biden transition team, TDI and the ten other organizations met with Kareem Dale, Disability Coordinator and other representatives of the transition team to provide them with an overview of its contents.

Each page in the document has recommendations on a different topic. After the Presidential transition team receives the entire document, each page is to go to the specific agency that covers those particular issues. For example, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) will receive the page on Civil Rights Protection and Enforcement. This page includes ten recommendations such as further revising the Americans with Disabilities Act to include more protections for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, such as declaring websites to be considered under Title III as places of public accommodations, requiring all information be captioned and recognizing the linguistic diversity and communication choices within our communities.

The US Department of Education will receive the page on educational issues for deaf and hard of hearing children. Among the six recommendations submitted were improvements to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and No Child Left Behind. We also requested continued funding to support training programs for different professions that facilitate communication access such as interpreters, captioning and communication access realtime translation (CART) writers, counselors and others.

To uphold the promise of employment for those who want to work, U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) will receive seven recommendations to increase opportunities for deaf and hard of hearing people in all sectors. One recommendation is that the US Small Business Administration make all of its programs and services accessible and empower entrepreneurs who are deaf and hard of hearing.

Toward improving access to health care, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will have seven recommendations that run the gamut from ensuring that health facilities be more accessible, especially after normal business hours, and better insurance coverage on hearing aids, cochlear Implants and other hearing assistive technology, rehabilitation and communication enhancement options.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has not escaped our radar. We proposed three recommendations, increase housing options for deaf senior citizens, enforce accessibility features for deaf and hard of hearing residents in housing under HUD’s jurisdiction, fund research into supporting universal design concepts in fire/smoke/carbon monoxide detectors and other alerting devices.

One very important page contained recommendations regarding Telecommunications, Information Services and Video Programming. Among other things, the nine recommendations include supporting the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, which will carry over current accessibility regulations from yesterday’s obsolete telephone and television technologies to today’s digital and Internet technologies. Also recommended are increasing access to broadband technologies and complete nationwide access to wireline and Internet-based captioned telephone services.

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) was tasked with our recommendations in four areas: to provide visual access to all announcements made at airports and ground transportation facilities, make highway emergency communications accessible, develop the Next Generation 9-1-1 system and issue regulations for the Air Carrier Access Act.

Part two will include the first page introducing the document with all of our recommendations. The full PDF document is online at
http://www.tdi-online.org/pdfs/obamatransition.pdf