To the general public’s eye, today’s day and age might seem like the most impartial society in history as far as the diversity and expression one sees in their day to day life. However, despite how inclusive the modern society may seem, there is still an astounding presence of discrimination against the deaf, or hard of hearing, in the workplace and even in hospitals.
Even though the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects people with disabilities and is supposed to prevent deaf people from being discriminated against in employment, there are still to this day far too many examples of just what the ADA is meant to prevent. A perfect example is Amanda Koller; recipient of a master’s degree in public administration from Western Michigan University, bachelor’s in health sciences from Temple University, and working towards a second master’s in health care quality management from George Washington University. Although obviously qualified, Koller hasn’t been accepted for a single full time job after applying for over 1,000. Koller describes what she usually goes through in a job interview, “I am deaf and prefer to interview in person so that I can lip-read.” This quite-reasonable request is nearly always ignored, and hiring managers tell her that an over the phone screening would be mandatory. In response to this, Koller tries to do interviews over a phone that permits her to read what the interviewer says on a screen and lets her respond by speaking; unfortunately, this special phone tends to slow down the interviewing process, and interviewers often tell Koller “they don’t have time for this and hang up.” Another first hand case of this discrimination comes from Ernest Williams, the co-founder of a Facebook group for job-seeking members of the deaf community. “‘My class mostly went to get master’s,’ he said. ‘Sometimes because we can’t get jobs, we have to get higher education to prove that we can do the job.’” (Morris, 2019). These are just a couple out of thousands of cases of discrimination against the hard of hearing.
Another field where discrimination against the hard of hearing occurs is surprisingly in hospitals. Ironically, a place designed to cater to the needs of its patients has been found guilty of discrimination against deaf people that are in dire need of aid. One account of the discrimination in a hospital occured in 2015 in Johnson City Hospital. In this tragic incident, “according to the lawsuit, the Johnson City hospital failed to provide a qualified sign language interpreter to help the Cantrells understand their daughter’s care in the six months and four hospital stays preceding her death.” According to the filing lawsuit, Sydnei Cantrell had visited the hospital on multiple occasions and was never provided with an adequate, qualified interpreter. Despite having multiple occasions to present a qualified interpreter, the hospital instead provided a sub-par interpreter, and then relied on a virtual video interpreter that failed to meet the minimum expectation of an interpreter qualified in ASL to aid Sydnei throughout her treacherous journey in the hospital. With the entire Cantrell family being hard of hearing, one should understand why a qualified interpreter is paramount. Upon delivery of Sydnei’s diagnosis “with a highly contagious bacterial infection, her doctors, protecting themselves from the bacteria, wore surgical masks when informing their patient of the risks. With their faces covered, the Cantrells had no chance to read their lips or understand the precautionary measures needed, and so spent 10 days in their daughter’s hospital room before learning of the need for protective gear.” At this point the hospital has already not done their part of providing an adequate interpreter for Sydnei’s sake, but now the lack of a qualified interpreter puts the Cantrell in real jeopardy of contracting a serious bacterial infection. The hospital’s lackluster accommodations resulted in Sydnei passing without ever being fully aware of what was happening to her, and at the same time put her hard of hearing parents in harm’s way unnecessarily.
The examples of discrimination against the hard of hearing in the society of today need to shed light on the problem at hand; simply put, our society has not adequately evolved to support the hard of hearing community, and we must adapt in order to present them with the equality they deserve. Whether it be an implementation in the education system of the general public, or more strict enforcement of the laws put in place against their discriminations, something must be done to diminish the underlying discrimination of the hard of hearing of the today.