Wash-CAP Is Getting a Southern Companion

Wash-CAP Is Getting a Southern Companion

By John Waldo

December 2009

Editor: We’ve been following Wash-CAP’s rapid and substantial success for over a year now, and have been hoping that their type of advocacy would be emulated elsewhere. We’re thrilled to see that the Wash-CAP folks have been talking to some people in Oregon, and that an Oregon version is in the works. Here’s the story as reported by Wash-CAP’s John Waldo. For more information on this very exciting program, please point your browser to http://www.hearinglosslaw.com/

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Word had spread about the successes we’ve enjoyed in Washington through the Washington State Communication Access Project, (Wash-CAP), our organized group advocacy on behalf of people with hearing loss. Last weekend, I met with a group of folks in Oregon who are interested in forming a similar organization, tentatively called the Oregon Communication Access Project.

The meeting was organized by Clark Anderson, a retired hospital administrator from the Eugene area. Clark brought together a number of Oregonians who have been actively working on behalf of people with hearing loss. Their general consensus — it makes sense to work as a group.

The overall objective in Oregon, as in Washington, will be to actually implement the provisions of federal disability laws that guarantee access to public places to people with hearing loss. The legal landscape in Oregon isn’t quite as favorable — while the federal Americans with Disabilities Act applies, Oregon does not have a state law like Washington’s that goes beyond ADA’s requirements.

We talked about the need for strategic planning and a systematic approach to implementing those plans. We talked about how our initial efforts to make live theater accessible in the Seattle area led us to learn about available technologies and providers, so that we could be resource people for businesses that want to reach out to people with hearing loss but aren’t sure how to do it.

As was the case in Washington, the feeling in Oregon was that it is important to begin dealing with situations where the business’s obligations are pretty clear-cut, and the advocacy efforts are therefore likely to succeed. In that light, efforts to make live theater dialogue and announcements at sports facilities understandable seemed particularly promising. Because of that, the early focus is likely to be on improving access at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Portland Center for the Performing Arts Broadway series and other major live theaters in Portland, the Hult Center for the Performing Arts in Eugene, and professional and college sports venues in Portland, Eugene and Corvallis.

This is great news for both Oregon and Washington. Working in two continiguous states will help generate awareness of the needs of the hearing-loss population and how those needs can be accommodated. Many people in both states cross the Columbia regularly to patronize attractions in the neighboring state.

I’ll continue to advise OR-CAP on some of the technical details of getting started — things like the mechanics of incorporation, the necessary corporate documents and the public outreach effort that is required. We hope they may benefit by what has worked well for us in Washington, and perhaps benefit just as much from things that we might have done a bit differently. We anticipate that by mid-January, the Oregon organization will be up and running, and opening doors there for those of us with hearing loss.