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Hearing Loss Advocacy at the Local Level: Public Accommodations and TV Stations – Part 1

Hearing Loss Advocacy at the Local Level: Public Accommodations and TV Stations – Part 1

Kim Davis

Editor: What do you do when you’re denied a service to which you are entitled? Chances are you don’t do anything, but just accept being treated as a second class citizen. Kim Davis thinks you should do a little self-advocacy!

This is part one of two parts.


I was born deaf and I went to public schools for the first eight years of my schooling. I had no support or accommodations during that time. Then in eighth grade we moved to St. Joseph, Missouri.

I felt very disenfranchised and disconnected, and felt like the world was passing me by. But I wanted to get out and do things. So that’s how I got involved.

Advocacy means that you seek to make changes. There are many approaches to advocacy, and we can adopt any of them.

One is to threaten to sue. That’s probably not a good initial strategy, but it may be a good final strategy. If you’ve tried everything you can think of, and nothing works, this may be the one to use.

A second approach is a passive one; a person may decide that, rather than fighting for his rights, he will find another place that will provide him with the aids and services he needs.

The third approach, and the one that I encourage, is to take time to educate people. Teach them about effective communications, and teach them about applicable Federal and state laws.

Doctor’s Appointments

Suppose you want to make a doctor appointment and they refuse to provide communications access. What can you do?

First note that doctor’s offices are required to provide communications access. Doctor’s offices are covered under Title II. Public Accommodations. Title III covers state and local governments and also talks about encouraging people to provide effective communication.

Also note that appropriate accommodations depends on what type of appointment you have and your personal characteristics. For a general checkup for a person with good written English skills, relying on paper and pen may be perfectly acceptable.

We encourage you to write a letter or email when asking for accommodations. If you are denied, ask them to explain why they refused you, and get that in writing,

It’s important to have a neutral interpreter, and a certified one. We had a case here in Missouri where a son was interpreting for his mother in a medical situation, and he couldn’t provide accurate interpretation, because he refused to accept the gravity of his mother’s situation. She was unaware of the severity of her illness until the son couldn’t interpret one day, and a professional interpreter was brought in.

A doctor may refuse to provide an interpreter, because of the expense involved. Notice that there is an “undue burden” provision in the ADA, and it compares the cost of an interpreter to the total budget of an organization, not to just the fee collected from a single person.

There are a variety of state and Federal agencies that can assist you in getting appropriate accommodations. Some include Protection and Advocacy, the Department of Justice, and local hearing loss service agencies.

Local Television Stations

Captioning is now required on most local programming.

I remember a story about a woman who saw her grandson on the news, but it wasn’t captioned. You can imagine that she might be concerned seeing him on the news and not knowing what it was about.

Many local stations use Electronic News Room, which is a text representation of all the scripted portions of the news. This includes what the news anchors say, but generally does not include on-site reporters, sports, and weather. It’s frustrating, but the law allows that in all but the largest metro areas.

Back in 1992 we worked with the local SHHH group to advocate for local news captioning. We came up with the agreement that if we raise enough money to cover captioning for five years, that the local stations would maintain it after that.

Now the state is advocating for realtime captioning for sports and weather. The FCC requires only the top 25 metro areas to provide realtime captioning, but we’d like to see it for the rest of the communities. So we’re pressing for a state law that requires all television stations to provide realtime captioning for all local news programming. Roy Miller has brought this up with the legislature for the past three years, and he’ll do it again this year. He’s fighting against the state bureaucracy, which is a real battle.

We have some people who use steno machines, while others use laptops, TypeWell, CPrint, and voice recognition software. People in the television industry generally don’t know about all these options, and we can educate them.

Part Two

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