The other link was getting full and I can only fit the text into one box and if it’s too much information you can’t see it. We’ll just say this is the second half or quarter or third of the series continued on this page. Feel free to comment or ask me questions through fan mail. Enjoy!
ADVOCACY AND RESOURCE SPECIALISTS
Advocates for the DHH are responsible for upholding the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The whole process is more than a notion. Advocates aren’t lawyers or judges, but they are regular people who strongly support the rights of DHH people and have vast knowledge of the ADA. There are advocates in different parts of Texas. Another name for “advocate” here in Texas is Deafness Resource Specialist (DRS). They are responsible for providing resources for the deaf. There are also Hearing Loss Resource Specialists (HLRS) who cater more specifically to those who are hard of hearing. Just because a person is a Resource Specialist (RS) doesn’t automatically mean they have the title of advocate. Most people who are RSs have a good, basic knowledge of the ADA law and support the DHH community, but advocates such as the woman I worked for (we’ll call her Rose) have in depth knowledge and always stay up to date as the law constantly changes. Some advocates and RSs are hearing while others are DHH. There are several duties that advocates and RSs perform. One of the main responsibilities of the DRS and HLRS is to educate and guide all those who come to them seeking assistance. DHH will have questions regarding the ADA, hearing aids, sign language classes, getting a job, etc. Advocates are also responsible for helping those in the DHH community to advocate for themselves. The most common reason for a visit to an advocate/DRS is to find out how to get communication access. At the DAC we had a HLRS and an advocate/DRS and they each held different yet similar positions.
The resident HLRS of DAC (we’ll call her Jody) is deaf, but has a cochlear implant which has allowed her to be considered hard of hearing. She had not always been deaf but was “late deafened” and decided to get an implant. She is able to hear fairly well with it and advocates getting a cochlear implant. Those who are hard of hearing are somewhat in between deaf culture and hearing culture which ultimately leads them to have a culture all their own. Ms. Jody did not believe that to be true, but Rose, the resident DRS believed it to be true. The HLRS provides resources and runs the Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program (STAP). This program provides assistive listening devices to hard of hearing people such as phones, alarms, devices to use with your cell phone, etc. The HLRS does presentations to educate people about hearing loss. She discusses how noise can deafen you over time, the options for hearing aids, and the types of auxiliary aids available for those who are hard of hearing, and answers any questions that people might have. She also explains the mechanics of the ear and how our hearing works. She performs house calls during which she demonstrates how to use an assistive listening device. The resident DRS at DAC has a job that’s very similar to that of the HLRS, but she has somewhat of a heavier load.
The DRS and the HLRS are usually hard to get a hold of because the list of clients that they have to meet with goes on and on and on and…you get the picture. The DRS is providing resources, doing presentations, making house calls, fighting with people on the phone, trying to spread awareness, and has to complete all these tasks within eight hours. It seems impossible at times. The HLRS has a heavy workload as well, but I worked more closely with Rose, the DRS. The DAC housed different programs and departments for the DHH community. There is the program for senior citizens who go on trips, have tons of fun, and hang out at the DAC, along with other members of the DHH community. There is the educational program which was meant to teach sign language classes and English classes for those who are DHH, but by the time I arrived the program became somewhat deflated and lack luster. There is also the assistive living or independent living department which helps DHH people to become more independent in their daily lives. There are DHH people who come here from other countries or who were raised to be dependent on others and don’t really know how to be independent and sometimes need assistance understand paperwork and this department is there to assist. There is also the interpreting department as I mentioned in previous chapters and we know what goes on there. The DAC also has a community outreach department which is responsible for hosting the Boys and Girls Summit held every year for DHH children in high school. The summits invite a D/HH person to speak to the children to show them the opportunities available out there for them in terms of work and life in general in order to boost their confidence for the future (pretty much everyone looks forward to the summits). The reason why I mentioned all of these departments is because the DAC is a hub and each department interacts with each other to assist the DHH community. The DRS will make referrals to these other departments and corresponds with the interpreting department most frequently.
The biggest issue for the advocacy department to deal with is the conflict with entities which refuse to provide interpreters or CART writers for DHH people. There is a somewhat stressful and sometimes long process to go through depending on how ignorant the person is who you’re dealing with. Sometimes the process is quick and it’s a matter of simply explaining what may have been lost in translation between the DHH person and the entity. There is an unofficial yet comprehensive process that has been set in place for addressing communication access with entities. First the D/HH person describes the situation which may or may not be conclusive and they provide the contact information. Sometimes this step takes a while if they don’t have all the information on hand or if they poorly describe the situation or if the information provided is inaccurate. Second, we send the appropriate ADA information to the entity through fax or email because it lessens the blow and businesses don’t feel so attacked if they receive helpful information before the next step. As I mentioned, sometimes it is just a matter of simply explaining what the law states. When a D/HH person goes to an entity he/she sometimes demands an interpreter when he/she is really supposed to go through a process of elimination with auxiliary aids. Third, we would wait for a response and if the entity did not contact us, then it’s time to call them and begin the battle (hehe). All the correspondence that occurs from this point on depends on delicate wording and clever tactics. Rose had tons of experience and at times I would be intimidated or too furious to deal with people gracefully. When contacting the entity we inform them of the law set in place. Some are aware of the ADA and hate it and refuse to follow the law while others were unaware and need to know what they’re supposed to do. Those who deny communication access typically have misconceptions in their head or the D/HH person may have been rude to them, which made them mad and defensive. They may think DHH people come with their own interpreters or think that the DHH are supposed to pay for their own auxiliary aid. Both of these statements are false. Explaining why the D/HH person needs an interpreter is more than just a notion.
Entities generally have much difficulty understanding why there is a language barrier and why an interpreter is required. Unfortunately I forgot to mention the process of elimination in the last chapter about the ADA. When a D/HH person goes to an entity they are supposed to try written or typed communication first before saying they need an interpreter. There are DHH people who follow this rule, but some don’t. If they go to their first doctor’s appointment with a new doctor, most DHH try to write through the appointment, but at the end of it all they may be left feeling as though writing the whole time was a daunting task and they may be lost and confused. At this point they request an interpreter for the next appointment. Of course there are certain circumstances when it’s absurd to communicate through writing, but for things such as regular check up appointments, it makes sense. The problem DHH may face is learning the English language. For DHH in general, learning English is like the equivalent of you trying to learn how to write in Armenian (unless you’re already Armenian, then it’s easy). English is a phonetic language which falls upon deaf ears. I learned this from Rose. Most D/HH read and write on a 3rd to 4th grade level. Now, when I learned this piece of information I was surprised. In California I was used to the language level of the DHH in that area. My sister, for example, is fairly articulate and I’m 99.9% sure she reads and writes way above a 3rd and/or 4th grade level. I don’t know whether or not these statistics are for Texas or the DHH population in general, but statistics on the DHH are generally outdated because people don’t keep up with them. The clients who came to us were generally the ones who read and write at the 3rd and/or 4th grade level. The fact that DHH in Texas are at this level is most likely due to the generally crappy school system and lazy parenting. The area where Amber and I were raised had a pretty good system set in place. I’ll go into detail in another chapter about the educational system in relation to the DHH. If the educational system and parents fail to effectively teach DHH children solid reading and writing skills it may cause the need for interpreters. Trying to explain all this to an entity can be difficult.
After attempting to explain the above conflict to entities they will either accept the information and get an interpreter or continue to debate. Paying for interpreting can run a business about $200 for an hour. When it comes to medical care the D/HH person’s insurance will usually reimburse the doctor’s office for the cost of interpreting. They don’t get all of the money back and so they complain that it’s not worth the cost and don’t seem to care that DHH people need healthcare too. There is a barrage of garbage that the advocacy department has to put up with so when we come across people who want to provide effective communication, but don’t know how then we will gladly assist them and I do mean gladly. There are some businesses that can’t really afford to provide interpreter services so we would provide the necessary information so they could get some monetary assistance. Occasionally we would have to contact businesses that already had interpreting contracts set up with the DAC, but because one person doesn’t know the routine we have to explain it to them. This usually occurred with the local government because for whatever reason there are enough DHH that go through the legal system for one reason or another so the local government finds it profitable to have an interpreting contract. Of course the local government is such a big entity that it’s easy for one hand not to know what the other hand is doing especially if someone is new and no one takes the time to explain the process. The biggest conflict may have been with the doctors’ offices. I would be so infuriated sometimes that I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. “Why can’t they just bring their own interpreter?” “Why should I have to pay for this service?” It would be easy to say, “Well, the Texas school system as well as our client’s parents was somewhat remiss in effectively educating your future patient so you are now required to provide an interpreter for effective communication. I know it sucks for you, but DHH are people too!” Of course saying things like that would definitely cause sparks to fly. This section is too freaking long so I will stop now.
All children are required to go to school. Depending on which state, city, province, or area you are in the level of education received will vary. As I mentioned in a previous chapter way back in the day, English is a phonetic language which falls upon deaf ears. Those who can hear probably don’t consider this, but most of the time we English speakers can get by through sounding out words. There are a few tricky words like “paragraph” which require you to know that “ph” makes an “f” sound. When it comes to writing out sentences hearing people can often cheat because of the fact that they can hear how it’s supposed to sound. Some hearing people have much difficulty grasping the spoken and written English language so imagine how much of a challenge it may be for those who are DHH. DHH may face challenges during their education in regard to communication access in the classroom and sometimes when they are at home their parent(s) may not take the time to help them with homework. When they graduate from high school and go onto college it can be more of a challenge to have the same level of access to knowledge that may have been received during their previous schooling. It may not make sense now but I will explain the “intricacies” of learning as a D/HH person. The learning process can be difficult for anyone but when there is a language barrier everyone needs to work together in order for DHH children and adults to achieve success.
There are several tools that a DHH child needs in order to receive a proper education and the first tool is communication access in the classroom. It may seem like a simple concept. If a person is D/HH then they need an interpreter. Any person with common sense would know this, but there are some schools which are a little bit slow. Amber and I received our education in the Los Angeles area and from what I’ve gathered; the school we attended was one of the best for DHH children to receive education. I cannot attest to the quality of schooling in other parts of California but I know that at our school, Washington Elementary, they seemed to have it down to a science. Of course interpreters cost money and no interpreter that I know would work for eight hours, five days a week without pay. It seemed that Washington found a solution: hire teachers who are fluent in ASL. It was brilliant. It makes all the sense in the world, really. I believe it was referred to as the “Deaf Education Program” which was sometimes referred to as the “Sign Language Program.” From first grade up until fifth grade I was in classes which had two teachers who knew how to sign. From my recollection I only had one class which wasn’t involved in the Deaf Education Program. I enjoyed the environment of the sign language program because there were DHH students in the class and if you couldn’t hear what the teacher said, then you could see her sign it! There were students who didn’t know sign language, but they learned through being in the class with the DHH students. Having a teacher speak your language who is able to answer your questions is a great advantage. Of course a teacher can only do so much because there are so many students, which is why a second teacher is helpful. I would like to think this was deliberate because as much time as it takes to explain assignments and answer questions for hearing children, it takes a little more time for DHH children. With hearing children you can point to the paper and talk in their ear to explain a math problem or whatever else and they don’t need to look at you, but DHH children typically have to look at whoever is communicating with them, then turn their heads back to the paper. Besides communication in the classroom there are fire drills, assemblies, recess, the D.A.R.E. program and other sorts of things that occur at school. Imagine how much could be lost if a D/HH child didn’t have all the communication access that teachers who use ASL can provide. When I worked in Texas I discovered there are simple tasks that most schools in Texas don’t seem to consider.
Texas is backwards in several ways, but the most dangerous time to be backwards is when you need to provide a D/HH child a basic education. Someone once told me that Texas was one of the more illiterate states in the country so I hope you can imagine what happens with a D/HH child’s literacy. America in general is behind several countries when it comes to education and I’m not sure why. Maybe the educational system is too complex to put together? Or maybe there are just too many states to regulate all the programs? I’m not sure, but what I do know is that if you can’t understand what your teacher is saying to you, then it is all downhill from there. Of course the responsibility of the child’s learning process includes parents, but there should be a set standard for schools which doesn’t put the brunt of the educational process on the parents’ shoulders. I view teachers as help meets who provide an education for children and parents help to reinforce what they were taught in class. Most parents can’t afford to home school their child and that’s what school of for. Working at DAC I learned that there are DEAF SCHOOLS which are made FOR THE DEAF which have teachers who DON’T KNOW SIGN LANGUAGE and interpreters AREN’T PROVIDED. This doesn’t mean all schools for the DHH are this way, but the fact that there are schools in existence like this, boggles my mind. There are also schools with so called “Deaf Education Programs” who also don’t provide communication access. What also pisses me off is that DHH children are placed in special education classes. DHH children aren’t mentally challenged unless they’re mentally challenged! Even if they are indeed mentally challenged, you still need to provide an interpreter! I don’t need to explain the catastrophe that occurs because of the absence of communication, do I? No? Well, just in case, let me provide a scenario. Imagine that you were sent to a school in Spain and you don’t know Spanish. Spanish is a language that most closely resembles English. You may be able to get by understand words like hello and goodbye, but that won’t help you much when you’re trying to get your education going. This is similar to what DHH children experience when they’re neglected in the classroom. One of the bigger issues that the advocacy department had to face was getting schools to provide communication access for children. In my opinion, the ADA is too flexible with schools when it comes to communication access. Schools are lumped in with other public facilities in the ADA when it should have its own title and should REQUIRE interpreters to be provided with the consequence of having the school accreditation revoked or something. This idea is extreme, I know, but it’s upsetting to see how lazy schools are towards the DHH. I mentioned in a previous chapter that there are parents out there who don’t know how to communicate with their own child and these parents generally make terrible advocates for their kids.
Advocating for DHH children and college students can be a serious uphill battle. The ADA never requires facilities to provide interpreters. There is a list of auxiliary aids for the facilities to choose from. Here is a snippet from the ADA:
“A public accommodation may avoid provision of an auxiliary aid only if it can demonstrate that provision of such would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, or would constitute an undue burden or expense. If the public accommodation is able to demonstrate that there is a fundamental alteration or an undue burden in the provision of a particular auxiliary aid it must, however, be prepared to provide an alternative auxiliary aid, where one exists. 28 C.F.R. Section 36.303(f).
A comprehensive list of auxiliary aids and services required by the ADA is set forth in this regulation, and includes, for deaf and hard of hearing individuals:
qualified interpreters, notetakers, computer-aided transcription services, written materials, telephone handset amplifiers, assistive listening devices, assistive listening systems, telephones compatible with hearing aids, closed caption decoders, open and closed captioning, telecommunication devices for deaf persons (TDD’), videotext displays, or other effective methods of making aurally delivered materials available to individuals with hearing impairments.”
The issue is that a lot of those aids are ineffective for most DHH children or adult OR the auxiliary aid is just ineffective and/or too expensive for the situation at hand. The other issue with the ADA is that determining which aid to use does not rest upon the D/HH person. The school gets to choose the auxiliary aid and they get to determine whether or not the D/HH student NEEDS the aid. Do I need to explain to you how STUPID that is? There have been RARE occasions when students have faked deafness and asked for auxiliary aids. This is something I was told and I have no idea what to say for these people other than, “please don’t help to further the complications that DHH students face and go get some counseling because YOU CRAZY.” If a student who has very mild hearing loss can’t hear from the back of the room, then they need to ask for priority seating. DHH students need priority seating and sometimes it’s that simple, but there are still schools/teachers that don’t reinforce something so SIMPLE. Hard of hearing students may not need an interpreter. It may be something as simple as notes. Some professors and teachers are too LAZY to even create an outline for the DHH students to follow. At times there are fellow students who are kind enough to take notes and help out. I thank you kind fellow students. To lazy teachers and professors I say, “Go stub your toe on the side of a mountain and sneeze.” All schools need to do is work with the D/HH student and/or the student’s family to achieve a solution. It may not need to be an interpreter, but schools and universities are concerned about their bottom line. Auxiliary aids cost money and schools don’t want to pay for them.
The reasons behind educational facilities not wanting to provide auxiliary aids can vary. I would like to think that schools don’t want to discriminate against DHH students, but you can never be sure. The excuses used are usually that they can’t afford it, they don’t know how to get it, or there aren’t enough interpreters. Some schools are dizzy in the head and have pulled students away from their classes to interpret for other students…REALLY??? I remember back in middle school there would be times when interpreters were sick (middle school didn’t really have teachers who knew ASL) and then one of the students would interpret during the class. Sometimes it would be me or someone else. Technically it was wrong, but we knew the language well enough to interpret; however, as far as I know none of us suffered in our other classes in order to provide communication access for another student. Students aren’t meant to be interpreters. It is definitely unethical for a school to use another student as an interpreter in that manner. As far as I knew, the middle school and high school Amber and I attended had salaried interpreters. The schools in Texas probably didn’t consider this…because Texas is a backwards state. I may seem bitter towards Texas and I may seem like I’m bashing it, but…maybe I am. I just believe that people are very ignorant when it comes to understanding DHH people and their culture. Advocates exist in order to help assist the DHH procure, secure, and receive access to effective communication.
Advocates work to eliminate the infinite amount of ignorance about providing DHH people with communication access for their education. For students in grades K-12 there are Admission Review and Dismissal (ARD) meetings. In California they were called Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings. In general ARDs are for students who have special needs or who need to have a specific education plan in order to keep them on track. When DHH children attend these meetings in Texas, it is typically to discuss communication access. Parents usually request the meeting and they can bring whoever they would like to help them convince the school to provide effective communication. Advocates are the ones who get to attend. My previous boss was asked to attend quite a few ARD meetings and it can be difficult. Parents can advocate for their child themselves, but they usually don’t know what to say which is why they ask an advocate to attend and provide concrete information to convince the school that they should provide communication access. It may take several ARD meetings before the school caves. If all else fails then the child may have to go to another school. If my husband and I ever have a child who is D/HH I would most likely home school him/her or we would have to move to California. From my perspective it seems a lot of parents don’t take the time to properly parent their children in terms of helping with homework so it can be a hard road when it comes to language skills. The lack of language foundation is due to the problems DHH may face during K-12, which is why it becomes necessary to have an interpreter for a basic check up. Hearing people just don’t understand. When DHH reach college there are no ARD meetings. In Texas, DHH receive a tuition waiver once they have filled out the correct paperwork so they don’t have to concern themselves with that aspect of school. When a DHH person is in college they simply must stand up for themselves and make sure they are accommodated for. I think some DHH may have assistance paying for interpreters during college, but I’m not sure. I can’t say much about this particular realm because I have not spent much time here. The scenarios I’ve mentioned are the worst cases. There are DHH students who either get through their schooling beautifully or the Lord has mercy on them once they enter college and the student has to play “catch up” in order to truly master the English language. Another important aspect in life is working. I will discuss the challenges there in the next chapter.