‘Protection & Advocacy’ Supports People with Hearing Loss

‘Protection & Advocacy’ Supports People with Hearing Loss

October 2004

The San Diego ALDA group recently had the pleasure of a presentation by Val Vera, a Legal Advocate for Protection and Advocacy, Inc. (P&A). P&A is a national public interest, not-for-profit organization with four offices in California – Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, and San Diego.

P&A is a federally mandated and funded program for persons with disabilities. They provide a variety of services including voting programs, mediation services, advocacy, complaint investigation, education, referrals, and outreach. Note that the state organizations may adopt different names. To contact the appropriate organization in your state, and for additional information on P&A, please visit their website at http://www.napas.org/.

The federal government requires a P&A organization in every state and provides about 80% of the organization’s funding; the remaining 20% comes from the states and donations. The reliable funding streams allow P&A to provide their services to people with disabilities without charge.

The folks at P&A are happy to discuss individual situations, but there are restrictions on the cases they will take on. The first requirement is that the client must have a disability, and the situation in dispute must be disability-related. So a disabled client who is evicted for non-payment of rent would not be eligible for P&A representation, because the situation in question is not disability-related.

A second requirement for P&A involvement is that the client must have a valid case, i.e. there must be a legal requirement for the other party to do what you asked. For example a request for CART for a church service would not be a valid case, because the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) specifically exempts churches from the communications access requirements.

In determining which cases to accept, P&A also considers the ability of clients to advocate for themselves, and they must also consider the ability of their organization to accept additional commitments. With a paid staff of about 15 persons, and with responsibility for four southern California counties with a population of several million people, the San Diego office is stretched pretty thin.

Two of P&A’s areas of focus are abuse and neglect (often in institutions) and anti-discrimination activities. This second category includes employment, housing, transportation, special education, and benefits (e.g., Social Security and Medicare issues).

Questions and Answers

Q. I was recently asked to serve on a jury. When I notified the court that I was hard of hearing and would require CART, they offered an interpreter. Despite my explanations that an interpreter would do no good because I don’t know sign language, they refused to provide CART, so I wasn’t able to perform jury duty. Is that a situation you could have helped with?
A. Yes, that’s a pretty clear case. The courts have a legal responsibility to provide effective accommodations. In your case, that means CART.

Q. I had a friend who had laser surgery that caused her to become blind in one eye. She wasn’t disabled before the surgery, but is now. Would P&A get involved in that situation?
A. Probably not, but not because of the timing of her becoming disabled. We don’t get involved with medical malpractice, criminal cases, or family law.

Q. A friend of mine applied for SSDI. He has several disabilities. He has applied for job after job after job, and keeps getting turned down. I’m pretty sure it’s because of his disabilities. But he was also turned down for SSDI! I couldn’t believe it! Would you help him?
A. That’s a sad situation, and not uncommon. But we don’t get involved in SSDI eligibility. If you’d like to advocate for him, I’d suggest that you get the Social Security Green Book and find the wording that they use as SSDI justification for your friend’s disabilities. Then have his doctor use those words or very similar ones in a letter of support.

Q. What is the statute of limitations for filing a discrimination complaint?
A. It depends on the law that was violated – various laws have various time periods. The shortest period I know of is one year, so if you file within a year, you should be safe.