Recently, new statistics were released and to many they were surprising. It seems previous estimates of the number of Americans who have hearing loss, that is who are Deaf (culturally deaf), deaf or Hard of Hearing were low. Those who survey and count now say 1 in 5 Americans has hearing loss. Yep, 20% of the population. That is 61,401,310 give or take a person.
The Americans with Disabilities Act says businesses must provide a reasonable and appropriate form of communication for people with hearing loss. In many cases where the interaction is very short and simple, such as a quick purchase, that simply means communicating by notes.
However, when the interaction is longer and more complex such as going over legal documents, a medical consultation, business negotiations, etc., businesses must provide communication assistance that is better suited to the needs of the individual.
Approximately 4% of those 61,401,310 people use American Sign Language (ASL) as their primary language. If your customer/client is among them you need to pay to have an ASL interpreter available. That’s right, the law says you pay, not the customer/client. Relax, it isn’t terribly expensive.
Because most people know that people who are Deaf use ASL, they assume all people who have hearing loss use ASL. In reality, 96% or 58,945,258 people do not use ASL. Some use assistive technology to help them hear and understand, some speech read, some use both and some rely on realtime captioning.
All too often, a person who has hearing loss requests a reasonable accommodation, specifies captioning and gets an ASL interpreter. The business didn’t understand realtime captioning. The only captioning they know about is on TV. So, to make their lives easier they provide an ASL interpreter. It does not help the person with hearing loss if they do not use ASL. It is as helpful as providing a Chinese language interpreter. The person doesn’t speak Chinese and they do not use ASL.
When a customer/client requests a specific accommodation, honor that request. “The customer is always right” certainly applies to understanding their own hearing loss.
Learn more about realtime captioning http://deafness.about.com/cs/cart/a/cart.htm