Rights of Deaf And Hard of Hearing Under the ADA

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Rights of Deaf And HOH Under the ADA

Copyright © 1992, All Rights Reserved to Michigan Association for Deaf, Hearing, and Speech Services

         Rights of Deaf And Hard of Hearing
       Under the Americans With Disabilities Act

              provided as a service by

 Michigan Association For Deaf, Hearing and Speech Services

    dedicated to improving the quality of life for deaf,
       hearing impaired, and speech impaired


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities, including deaf and hearing impaired people. There are four sections in the law: employment, government, public accommodations, and telecommunications. Each section of the ADA lists services that should be provided for deaf individuals. The ADA adds more protection for handicapped persons to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

This brochure includes some basic information on your rights under the ADA as a deaf or hearing impaired person. There are five areas covered in this brochure:

  • Public Accommodations, Stores, Businesses
  • Medical Treatment
  • Employment
  • State and Local Government, Courts, Attorneys
  • Telecommunications

In each area, there are other rules that may apply to your situation. MADHS can provide more information or answer your questions.

In general, the ADA expects agencies, businesses, service providers, and employers to remove barriers that prevent a deaf person from participating. Some of the rules are being added gradually, so organizations can have time to make the changes.

The law does allow for some exceptions, when the changes that would be needed would cost too much. If an agency or business cannot make all the changes, the law says they must try to do as much as possible to become accessible for deaf and hearing impaired persons.

The law also says you need to tell agencies and businesses what you need to communicate. Notes, interpreters, and telecommunication devices for the deaf (TDDs) are all ways to communicate, but you need to let providers know what you are comfortable using.


In Michigan the phone company has already provided a way for you to use the phone system with TDDs for local and long distance calls. You will call a trained telephone relay representative who reads what the TDD user types and types what the voice telephone user speaks.

The Michigan Relay Center (MRC) is open 24 hours a day. The representative must say the exact words you type and must tell you exactly what the other person has said. All telephone relay calls are confidential. The representative can't tell anyone else what you have said. The phone company cannot charge more for TDD calls.


State and Local government includes a long list of agencies and services in addition to government offices and courts. Some of these are social service agencies, jails, police/fire, school systems, public swimming pools, municipal golf courses, civic arenas, lottery bureaus, or zoos. Deaf persons should be able to participate in these services.

Government agencies may need to provide a qualified interpreter when requested by the deaf consumer. It is your responsibility, as a consumer, to ask for an interpreter before the appointment. You are not responsible for the interpreter's bill. The agency must pay the fees. Assistive listening devices may also be used when you request them and when appropriate.

If you need to go to court, you must call the court and ask for an interpreter who is certified. The cost of the interpreter cannot be added to any court costs. Family members and friends should not act as interpreter for you. They will not be paid by the court. You should also ask for a certified interpreter to work with you and your lawyer.

A deaf person should not be excused from jury duty just because they are deaf. The court will provide an interpreter or assistive listening device at no cost.


Stores, Businesses, hotels, theaters, restaurants, retail stores, banks, museums, parks, libraries, and private schools should all provide auxiliary aids and services for communicating with deaf people. Sometimes, written notes are enough to communicate information. At other times, an assistive listening device, TDD, or an interpreter is needed.

Public accommodations or businesses like hotels must provide TDDs when phones are available for the general public. At least one TDD should be installed in shopping malls, hospital waiting rooms, stadiums, convention centers, airports, or any building with more than four pay telephones.

Movie theaters do not have to provide captioned films, but other places that present information on film or TV should either caption the presentation or provide an interpreter. Aids for deaf and hearing impaired should be provided for presentations at conventions or performances at a hotel.


Hospitals that receive money from the U.S. government must provide equal services to deaf persons. Hospitals must be sure deaf persons can communicate with doctors and nurses. As a deaf person, you should choose the kind of communication you prefer: sign/oral interpreter, written notes, lip reading, assistive listening devices, or a combination.

When important communication is needed, the ADA says the hospital must provide a qualified interpreter. Important communication includes discussions about your sickness and what kinds of treatment are needed or available. It also includes registering at the hospital or anytime you are asked to fill out papers, providing medical information or when you are discharged. If you cannot understand the interpreter provided by the hospital, ask for a different interpreter. The hospital cannot charge you for the interpreter. The hospital may not have an interpreter on staff. If possible, try to make an appointment so the hospital can arrange for an interpreter to be there.

You may not always need an interpreter at a hospital. In many routine situations, such as having your temperature and/or blood pressure taken, taking medication, or ordering meals, written communication can be used. If you need to stay in the hospital and have a television in your room, the hospital must provide a decoding device for closed caption viewing. The hospital must also provide you with a TDD.

Classes given to the general public must also be open for deaf persons to attend. When you register for the class, let the hospital know you are deaf and tell them you need an interpreter, so an interpreter will be available for the class.

Private practice doctors are also required to follow the ADA laws. Communication is just as important at the doctor's office as it is at the hospital. Ask for an interpreter or assistive listening device. The doctor's office should provide this at no charge.


The ADA says employers cannot discriminate in the job application process, hiring, firing, salary/pay, promotion, or any other benefit of being an employee. This means a qualified interpreter should be available for a job interview. If a verbal test is part of the job application process, the employer should provide an appropriate written test for a deaf applicant.

The deaf person should be able to do the most important parts of the job without assistance. Employers should change a job whenever possible to allow a deaf or hearing impaired person the opportunity to do the job. If answering the phone is one small part of the job and you can do the other parts of the job by yourself, your employer should assign the phone duties to someone else.

The ADA covers employers with more than 25 employees. After July 26, 1994 the ADA will cover employers with 15 or more employees.


If you have been discriminated against by your employer, file complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 180 days. (202) 663-4900 (Voice); (800) 800-3302 (TDD)

You can also call the Michigan Department of Labor. (517) 373-0378 (V/TDD)

If you have been denied services you should receive, file complaints with the Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice. (202) 514-0301 (Voice); (202) 514-0381 (TDD)

If you are not sure about a complaint, call MADHS for information. (800) YOUR-EAR (V/TDD)

This document provided courtesty MADHS

What can MADHS do to help?
MADHS works across the state as an advocate for deaf, hearing impaired, and speech impaired persons. We provide information to any business or organization that works with, or provides services for the deaf and hearing impaired. MADHS also provides services, information, and referrals to families and individuals who need special assistance.

We can provide:

  • loaner telephone and telecommunications equipment including Telecommunication Devices for the Deaf (TDDs), Closed Captioning Decoders, or FM Loop Systems
  • TDDs for qualifying persons
  • interpreter services, including statewide interpreter referral
  • seminars and workshops for deaf and hearing impaired persons
  • information and training for individuals and busi nesses working with deaf and hearing impaired persons

We are here to assist you. Call or write:

Michigan Association for Deaf, Hearing, and Speech Services
724 Abbott Road
East Lansing, Michigan 48823

(517) 377-1646 V -(800) YOUR EAR V/TDD
(517) 337-1649 TDD-FAX (517) 337-4060


Have pen and paper ready.

Source: From the New York Times Sunday August, 7, 1994, Business Section, p.F19.

Proper or Improper questions?

  • 1. Can you perform the functions of this job with or without reasonable accommodation?
  • 2. Do you have AIDS? Do you have asthma?
  • 3. How did you become disabled?
  • 4. Do you have a cold? Have you ever tried Tylenol for fever? How did you break your leg?
  • 5. Have you ever filed for workers' compensation? Have you ever been injured on the job?
  • 6. How often did you use illegal drugs in the past?
  • 7. Can you meet the attendance requirements of this job? How many days did you take leave last year?
  • 8. Do you illegally use drugs? Have you used illegal drugs in the last two years?
  • 9. Have you ever been addicted to drugs?
  • 10. How much alcohol do you drink each week? Have you ever been treated for alcohol problems?
  • 11. Have you ever been treated for mental health problems?
  • 12. Do you drink alcohol?
  • 13. How much do you weigh? How tall are you? Do you regularly eat three meals a day?
  • 14. Have you ever taken AZT? What prescription drugs are you currently taking?

Proper questions employers may ask:

Improper questions employers may not ask and are illegal:

Any complains? Call or write to Peggy Mastroianni, Director of the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission's ADA Policy Division.

(Contributed by Michael Yared 52yared@cua.edu at 10 Aug 1994)

Last update date: 
1995 Dec 30