Blog 15 August 22, 2014
One question I am often asked is just what does a business have to provide to be in compliance with the ADA laws regarding accommodations for deaf and hard of hearing employees in the workplace. There’s no easy answer to that question, as it depends a lot on what sort of business you are, what your employee is doing, and whether providing certain accommodations would result in undue hardship for your business.
In a nutshell, a business must provide a reasonable accommodation for an employee with a disability. This could be something like a magnifier device on a computer for an employee with a visual disability, or providing amplification on a telephone for a hard-of-hearing employee. Wheelchair ramps, accessible lavatories and other accommodations often come to mind when thinking of reasonable accommodations that most of us would expect a business to provide to someone with a disability.
But does that also mean that a business must provide a sign language interpreter for a deaf employee every day? Is a business responsible for buying and maintaining a hearing aid or other device for an employee? This is where the word “reasonable” becomes subject to interpretation, and that interpretation can differ from business to business and even from the employee’s and employer’s perspectives.
Again, reasonable means that an employee with a disability is given a level playing field to do his or her job in the same way and with the same resources as any employee without a disability would have. For example, if an employee who uses a wheelchair cannot access an office or lavatory, then an accommodation would have to be made. If the same employee did not have a wheelchair, the business does not have to buy one for the employee. However, the employer may have to supply a desk that can accommodate a wheelchair comfortably so the employee can do the job. This link from the Job Accommodation Network has a lot of good information that explains things further: http://askjan.org/media/hearing.html
Recently I was contacted by a major corporation about supplying communication access real-time translation (CART) for a deaf employee whose presence was critical to the success of the project. Although I am not sure what was used before, it must not have been effective enough for the employee to participate, in real-time, in important decisions and ideas being discussed at these meetings. With CART, there is no one else in the room except the meeting attendees. Everything is done remotely, and only the person who needs the service knows it’s there on a mobile device, laptop or tablet. Yet everything being said and discussed is captioned in 2-3 seconds, allowing the deaf employee to be an active participant.
Having been to my fair share of meetings, it got me wondering if it wouldn’t be a good idea for businesses to supply this service to ALL employees. How many times have you missed a comment or question, especially at a large meeting? Plus you get a transcript of the proceeding afterwards. I know I would have loved that, and it works great for those where English is a second language. Perhaps one day captioning will be de rigueur in all business meetings and functions. Wouldn’t that be an ideal working environment?
Blog 14 August 8, 2014
Probably everyone on the planet has heard the news that LeBron James has come back to Cleveland to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers. To say that northeast Ohio is overwhelmed with happiness to have him back is an understatement! The enthusiasm for his return, and the classy way in which he handled it, have once again returned him to hometown hero status. Not to mention that Clevelanders, loyal and dogged sports fans that they are, are hoping that maybe, finally, Cleveland will be able to win a national title and break the Cleveland sports jinx.
The Cleveland Cavaliers play at the Quicken Loans Arena, colloquially known at the “Q” to native Clevelanders. And although the ADA has made it clear about accommodations for those with disabilities in public venues like the Q, there has still been some foot-dragging about providing even the most basic accommodations to sports fans with disabilities. Like the college sports franchises, big league teams don’t seem too anxious to do more than they have to in order to make sporting events accessible and enjoyable for everyone.
That is, of course, until the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Ohio, got into the picture in 2012. After some investigation, an agreement was reached between the Q and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to institute changes to the provision of accommodations for patrons with disabilities. These included:
Commitment to continued wheelchair accessibility
Captioning on the scoreboards and video monitors at Quicken Loans Arena to provide deaf patrons with equal access to all of the aural information provided over the public address system
Modification of websites to ensure that blind individuals using screen reader software are provided equal access to the same information
Modification of policies to ensure that individuals with disabilities are provided accessible seating optionsTraining its ticketing staff to ensure that all people with disabilities are treated in a nondiscriminatory manner and afforded the same service and courtesy afforded any customer.
You can read the full article here: http://www.justice.gov/usao/ohn/news/2012/13deccavs.html
Now, all Cleveland basketball fans can enjoy the Cavaliers’ games knowing they have full and total access to the same services regardless of disability status. For those with disabilities, it only takes one person to start the ball rolling. If you recognize some of these problems at your sports venues, make sure your voice is heard by letting management know what needs to be changed.
So, let’s play basketball, and go Cleveland Cavaliers!
I just returned from the Ohio College Personnel Association (OCPA) in Worthington, Ohio, and did a lot of thinking about the things I learned from those who work in the front line of service delivery to college students across Ohio.
First of all, I want to say how impressed I was with everyone – from the newly-minted master's degree professionals in entry level positions, to those who have dedicated themselves to a lifetime of service making the college experience accessible, rewarding and successful for all students in Ohio colleges. Everyone seemed focused on one goal – finding the best possible ways to create a rich academic and social experience for every student.
But one issue came up repeatedly, and I felt I had to address it here: budgets. As I've learned, higher education budgets depend upon enrollment numbers, and when those numbers sink, so do budget amounts. And budgets are especially critical for those who work in disability services and accommodations, because budgets can determine the type of accommodations students receive.
Accommodations for students with hearing impairments and auditory learning disorders can range from a note taker, who can be a volunteer or student worker, to the "Cadillac" of accommodations, communication access real-time translation and/or real-time transcription, also known as CART. Students love it; faculty members love it; administrators may love the idea, but not the cost.
Premier Visual Voice presented a program on CART and captioning at the convention, and also reached out to many attendees to determine if they knew what CART was and how it was used in their institutions. The feedback we received told us that in institutions where CART is used, students seem very happy with it. Where it is not being used, it seemed to boil down to one critical point: budgets that don't allow for the costs. After all, it is pretty hard to compete on a financial basis with an almost free service such as note taking.
The dedicated workers I met at OCPA want, above all, to have the best possible services for their students, including CART. We'd like to help make that happen, too, by working together as partners with our colleagues in higher education.
Blog 13 July 3, 2014
When I was a student in the Court Reporting and Captioning program at Cuyahoga Community College, I had to listen to a lot of testimony in order to learn how to voice and transcribe those documents properly. It wasn’t always easy to keep up in the beginning, especially with the fast exchange between the lawyers and the witnesses, known in court reporting parlance as “Q & A.” It was very challenging to voice correctly and complete a verbatim transcript that would be acceptable to the Court.
After getting more conversant with court testimony and lawyers’ styles of questioning, I listened to a lot of what was going on in those dictation files, and it made me think what it would feel like if you are deaf or hard of hearing and had to go to court. Or, worse yet, you were accused of a crime and interrogated without an accommodation that works for you.
It’s frightening and intimidating to all of us to be questioned by the police or lawyers regarding a crime, but can you imagine how you would feel if you were deaf or hard of hearing? Of course, police departments and courts understand that it is imperative to provide an accommodation for anyone with a disability, and certainly they would make whatever options they have available to the deaf or hard of hearing client. What I think about is whether the accommodation offered totally meets the needs of the deaf or hard of hearing person who is in a very stressful situation and needs the best and most effective accommodation possible. And it seems I’m not the only person who is concerned. Check out this article about a judge in California who has been working to make sure deaf and hard of hearing clients get a fair shake in his court system: http://www.calbarjournal.com/January2014/TopHeadlines/TH1.aspx
There have been instances when getting a sign language interpreter on short notice has been an ordeal, and can delay proceedings or cause problems for a speedy trial. There’s even controversy about how sign language can be used in the courtroom, based on this article about a case in Maryland: http://www.fredericknewspost.com/news/crime_and_justice/courts/courtroom-sign-language-restrictions-raise-concerns/article_fbb73837-446e-5ce5-965f-c375c6542ef5.html.
And what if the person requiring the accommodation is a late-deafened adult who does not know sign language? This is where CART, (communication access real-time translation), can be a godsend for police or court officials, as it can be done remotely and quickly, and provide both officials and clients with a nearly verbatim transcript of the conversation.
And it’s not just in a “Law & Order” setting where CART can be effective, even for those who are culturally Deaf. Even just going to talk to a lawyer in an office about mundane legal issues can be stressful when you are deaf or hard of hearing, and CART can ease that process. In fact, I often think CART is the universal solution for legal and medical visits, since it will work for both culturally Deaf as well as late-deafened clients. It’s easy to use, it’s got a short turnaround time, and you get a transcript of the entire session. And that can be really invaluable from a legal point of view. Case closed!
If you are fluent in Spanish and a professional voice writer, you are in high demand! Not only are there events that are being captioned in Spanish, but students who need classes in Spanish, or even those learning the language who have hearing impairments or auditory learning disorders need the service.
Hispanics with hearing impairments make up 9.4% of the total population with hearing impairments, according to Susan Antunez in her online article, "Language Development of Hispanic Deaf Children." This number reflects a growing need for the service in the Hispanic community, and will grow within the decade.
Although only government meetings and events are required to provide captioning by law, according to the ADA regulations, it is becoming more evident that everyone should have access to all types of meetings and events. Those organizing these types of occasions might not be aware that they have someone with a hearing impairment in the audience, and especially someone who is also a Spanish speaker.
If you are someone who requires CART (communication access real-time translation or real-time transcription), don't be afraid to ask for that service. It may be an important meeting about which you need to be informed, and without CART in your own language, it could cause problems for you down the road.
If you are an organizer of meetings or events and have pondered how to provide CART services to your Spanish-speaking attendees, many CART companies, such as Premier Visual Voice, can do that for you. It's not something you may think about often, but especially if you are working with a Spanish-speaking population, you may want to re-examine your policies about providing access to all participants, especially those who have hearing impairments.
With Spanish fast becoming the language of choice for high school and college students in what is fast becoming a bilingual society, providing CART in Spanish for students with hearing impairments and auditory learning disorders will become more common. We are Premier Visual Voice are poised to help you with your Spanish speaking populations who need CART services.
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