The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation to employees and applicants for employment. What are reasonable accommodations? A discussion with Howard Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf
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for part 1 of ADA Reasonable Accommodations.
Interview recorded Sept 27, 2017.
Traynham: You mentioned something a few moments ago -- and pardon my ignorance. You said, "Deaf people." Is that the right terminology to use, or is it "persons that are deaf"? I'm not sure most Americans know exactly how to phrase that in a sentence and/or in a conversation.
Rosenblum: Just as with any group, people have personal preferences, but generally speaking, the National Association for the Deaf is in support of the use of "deaf" and "hard of hearing". Those are the two terms that we categorize groups with. We prefer not to use the term "hearing-impaired" because, within our community, we feel like we are not impaired. We feel like we are a distinct culture, we have our own identity, and we use sign language to communicate. Many of us can speak using our voice, some don?t, some sign, some don't. So, it's a mixed bag and most people prefer to be identified as "deaf" and/or "hard of hearing". Terms of identifying the person first, that's generally the rule in the disabled community -- a person with vision loss, a person who is blind, a person who uses a wheelchair. In the deaf community, most of us just say deaf or hard-of-hearing person.
Traynham: Howard, one question, an unfortunate topic that I'd like to chat about for a few moments, and that is the very high unemployment rate within the community. Why is it so high and what can we do to lower it?
Rosenblum: You're absolutely right. It is outrageously high for many people with disabilities. If you look at the statistics within the federal government and the private sector, there are many other people out there working. Some specific disabilities seem to thrive. The deaf community is not one of them. They seem to be running into a barrier related to employment, and we believe it to be a communication issue. The employer interviews someone, sees that perhaps they can't communicate or bring in an interpreter, and then all they can think about is the interpreter. They don't think about the skill of the deaf person. So, the NAD -- the National Association for the Deaf -- offers a solution, and it's to establish something called "a Centralized Reasonable Accommodation Fund -- the CDRAF". And the reason for that is not only for deaf and hard-of-hearing people, but for a variety of disabilities. If each federal agency and each private sector company set up a pooled fund to fund any types of needs for accommodations, then the people who are doing the hiring don't have to think about the cost because, especially when the people are hiring, they have to think about their budget, the budget of their department specifically -- how many people they can hire within that budget. And they don't want to go over that to pay for accommodations. So, if you take that out and create a centralized pool for that, to provide accommodations, then more people would be willing to hire people with disabilities, especially deaf individuals. So, we are encouraging both private companies and federal agencies to do that. And a few already have that in place, so we are looking forward to more of that.
Traynham: I think it's important to stress that you are a -- we all are people first. And it's important to stress that. Howard, can you -- in the few moments that we have left -- talk about your organization, the National Association of the Deaf. What is your mission statement and what do you do?
Rosenblum: Sure. I'd like to first emphasize that what people don't realize is that the National Association for the Deaf is the oldest national civil rights organization in the United States.
Rosenblum: Mm-hmm. It was founded in 1880. So, really, we're 137 years old now. And the reason that we established the organization is it was established by deaf and hard-of-hearing leaders at that time who realized that we needed our own way to come together and speak out for our rights, to advocate for ourselves and preserve American Sign Language. So, at that time, the world was discussing whether or not they wanted to stop using sign language to teach deaf children. So, there was an international conference to actually discuss that. And NAD was founded to make sure that sign language continued in the United States -- and has, to date. Our mission is to preserve, protect, and promote civil human linguistic rights of all deaf and hard-of-hearing people in the United States.
Traynham: Well, happy anniversary. I did not know that the NAD was older than the NAACP -- the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Again, happy anniversary.
Traynham: For the individuals out there that are watching the program now, Howard, how can they find out more about your organization?
Rosenblum: It's very simple. You can find us on all social media platforms. We have a website -- www.nad.org. And we have a Twitter, a Facebook -- all of it is NAD1880.
Traynham: Howard Rosenblum, it's been a pleasure to have you on the program.
Rosenblum: Thank you.
Traynham: And thank you for joining us, as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation, visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I'm Robert Traynham. Video Relay Service image courtesy: Significan't SignVideo Services