Communication Rights for the Deaf

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Communication is a human right

We believe every Deaf person should have an opportunity to use sign language. However, there may be legal situations where it may be challenging to get the communication access you need. Here are some notable laws that may impact a Deaf person’s access to communication. We’ve developed strategies to support you in getting what you need in communication access based on these laws.

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Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA is a civil rights law prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities. It includes all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places open to the general public. The law’s purpose is to ensure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. The ADA is divided into five titles (or sections) that relate to different areas of public life.

Five sections of ADA:

  • Title I: Employment. An employer shall not discriminate against a qualified individual with disabilities.
  • Title II: Public Entities. Public entities – like local governments, municipalities, and school districts – shall not discriminate against people with disabilities.
  • Title III: Public Accommodations. Public places like restaurants, stores, care providers, hotels, etc., shall not discriminate against people with disabilities.
  • Title IV: Telecommunications. Telecommunication companies shall ensure that their services are functionally equivalent for consumers with disabilities. For example, providing Deaf users video relay services (VRS) and teletypewriter (TTY) at no cost to Deaf consumers is one way these companies can comply with Title IV.
  • Title V: Miscellaneous Provisions. It’s a statement that nothing in ADA can override or cancel anything in Section 504. Also, it details the prohibition of retaliation and coercion.

Convo VRS is an example of Title IV of the ADA, a VRS company providing VRS service free of charge for Deaf and Hard of hearing individuals. 

To learn more about ADA, find more about it here.

To learn more about Section 504, here’s what you need for a fact sheet.

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Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

IDEA is a part of federal legislation that ensures all students with disabilities are provided with an education that fits their needs. Every student with disabilities has the right to Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). FAPE is a stipulation that requires all K-12 educational schools and institutions to provide special education at public expense designed to prepare their students for the future. 

IDEA is built on the idea that every child with a disability should have the same opportunities in education as children who do not have a disability. Under IDEA, public schools must develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for every student with disabilities. IEPs describe a student’s academic achievement and functional performance in school and specify needed student accommodations and services. 

To learn more about IDEA, come here.

To learn more about FAPE, discover more here.

Strategies to get what you need with IDEA

As Deaf parents, you can request that parent-teacher IEP meetings are provided with the accommodations you need (i.e., sign language interpretation). Check in with your school to ensure that these conferences are readily accessible for you regarding meetings for your children. One of the hallmarks of ADA is ensuring that you have effective communication. Effective communication works when you get the accessibility that feels right for you.

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Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)

HIPPA is a federal law that requires national standards to protect sensitive and confidential patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge.

Deaf VRS users may occasionally experience calls where they were denied access to their medical information with their healthcare providers due to HIPAA concerns.

Strategies to get what you need with HIPAA

We’ve published a blog post that helps you how you can navigate through HIPAA to get what you need in your calls. Read all about it here.

To learn more about HIPAA, read more here.

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Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

FERPA is a federal law that gives parents the following:

  • control over access to their children’s educational records, 
  • an opportunity to request the school to correct records that they may believe is inaccurate 
  • some control over the disclosure of information under certain conditions. 

Once students are over 18 years of age, they have the right to privacy over their records, and they must be asked for consent to share their documents. FERPA applies only to educational agencies and institutions that receive funds from the U.S. Department of Education.  

Strategies to get what you need with FERPA

Deaf VRS users may experience barriers to getting educational records for themselves or their children via VRS due to FERPA issues. What can you do next? You should notify your educational institution that you use VRS for your calls. Sometimes they may be unfamiliar with VRS, so explaining VRS to them may help make the process easier and smoother.

To learn more about FERPA, learn more about it here

To share information about VRS with them, click here.

Laws can be complicated, but your communication access should never be. At Convo, we strive to make your communication feel right to you, which means sharing information that supports you in getting what you deserve.

Note: The information provided on this blog post does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. Information on this blog post may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information. This blog post contains links to other third-party websites.  Such links are only for the convenience of the reader, user or browser; Convo does not recommend or endorse the contents of the third-party sites. Readers of this blog post should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. 

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