In Florida alone, there are over 3 million people who are hearing impaired. The prevalence of hearing disorders among senior citizens is on the rise. The surprising fact is that this large segment of the population is not effectively served by attorneys. The problem of delayed representation is based on a misunderstanding of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
It is important that an attorney understand the differing levels of hearing loss and the distinctions among the hearing impaired. The most common terms for an attorney to know are “deaf” or “hard of hearing”. An attorney should ask the client’s identifier if uncertain. This will aid the attorney in clarifying the accommodations or types of services needed. The factor that helps to determine the classification of a hearing impaired person is the amount of usable hearing that the individual has. Deaf people used American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate. An individual who is classified as hard of hearing is not deaf. He or she has suffered the loss of hearing that can be aided using hearing aids and speech reading. The majority of those hard of hearing do not know ASL.
The way that differing hearing impaired individuals communicate varies. Once an attorney understands the hearing classification, he can understand the communication method employed by the client. The attorney must ask which auxiliary aid or assistive device will be needed for effective communication. A client who is hearing impaired will appreciate a straightforward approach of dealing with the situation. The first type of communication used is American Sign Language; it is a manual and visual communication that is not English. ASL has it owns rules of grammar and syntax and is not a written language. An attorney should be cognizant that all legal documents will have to be reviewed in a deaf person’s second language, English. Second-language fluency will vary from person to person. The most effective way to communicate with a deaf person is with the assistance of a qualified and certified ASL interpreter.
Use of Hearing Aids
The hearing impaired that is identified as hard of hearing usually rely on different auxiliary means in order to compensate for hearing loss. A person who is hard of hearing can have different levels of hearing depending on the pitch and background noise level. For example, a person who has is hearing impaired may find it difficult to carry on a conversation at a loud restaurant. The loud background noise may be too distracting or intense. Lip-reading is one measure taken to fill in the gaps of what is being missed due to hearing loss. However, an attorney should realize that proficiency in speech reading can also be fluctuating. A hearing aid in one or both ears can improve the hearing dramatically of a person who is hearing impaired.
An attorney must make special modifications when interacting with a hearing impaired or deaf client. As an attorney, he will know the importance of not treating a person who is hearing impaired differently due to a disability.