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Law, Legal Rights, and Deaf/Hard of Hearing People

If Denied or Discriminated Against...

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Updated April 11, 2014

There is no one law that covers only deaf and hard of hearing people. Rather, multiple laws address deafness and hearing loss as a disability, with some laws being more important than others. Resources available for deaf and hard of hearing people who wish to research their legal rights related to issues such as employment, the classroom, and places of public accommodation include law centers, books, discussion lists, fact sheets, websites, and video materials.

The key laws usually referenced are the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Television Decoder Circuitry Act and the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (for captioning), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and the Rehabilitation Act, with its key sections (Section 504 and Section 508). There are other sections of the Rehabilitation Act, but Section 504, which requires access to the programs offered by any program receiving federal financial assistance, and section 508, which requires information technology developed or used by the federal government -- including websites -- to be accessible, are the most frequently cited sections.

Even with these existing laws, deaf and hard of hearing people have still been involved in court cases over the years, especially employment, education, and imprisonment court cases. The National Association of the Deaf Law Center, a source of legal information and representation, and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, have been involved in several such cases.

Books

There is a book available that dissects laws as they apply to deaf and hard of hearing people: Legal Rights: The Guide for Deaf/HOH, (compare prices), written by the National Association of the Deaf. Another book is about signs used for legal communication, Random House Webster's American Sign Language Legal Dictionary. (compare prices)

Discussion Lists

Quite a few deaf and hard of hearing people have entered the legal field themselves, becoming lawyers. A handful of discussion lists and websites have evolved to meet their need for a way to share information:
  • DeafGA.org is a website for deaf/hard of hearing lawyers that has discussion forums and a blog.
  • Yahoo groups has a handful of discussion lists on law and deafness: DeafLaw, Surduslaw, DHHBA (deaf and hard of hearing bar association). Another legal list is the Yahoo group ADA-Deaf.

Fact sheets

Handy fact sheets are available from the Department of Justice, which offers two fact sheets:
  • Communicating with People Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing in Hospital Settings (DOJ Page)
  • Communicating with Guests Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing in Hotels, Motels, and Other Places of Transient Lodging (DOJ Page)

Websites

Quite a few websites have information on legal rights for disabled people. Some of the best known ones are:

Video Materials

The Described and Captioned Media Program has three relevant video materials:
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act: Is it Working?
  • Making the A.D.A. Work for You
  • Working II: The Americans Disabilities Act at Work
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