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The Americans With Disabilities Act: The Americans With Disabilities Act and the College Years (Part Two)

23 minutes

NARRATOR: So today, we will talk about the ADA and how it applies to colleges, universities, and any program after high school. Yes, there are many ways that the ADA applies. Colleges, universities, and programs can be run by private companies. They follow part three of the ADA. Part three of the ADA applies to any privately-run business open to the public. So for any student who goes to a privately-run college, the college must follow part three of the ADA.

Now, if the college is run by a state program, and government funds the college or university, they have to follow part two of the ADA. Any state or local government program must follow part two of the ADA. In addition, regardless of whether a college or university is privately or state run, if the college or university receives any federal funds, then students are also protected by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which has similar protections as the ADA. The Rehabilitation Act applies to any federally-run or federally-funded entity. In addition, each state has its own disability rights laws. So each state may have laws that provide the same rights as the ADA or more rights than the ADA. Keep in mind that there are several laws that affect colleges and universities-- title two of the ADA for those that are publicly run, title three of the ADA for those that are privately run, the Rehabilitation Act for those that receive federal funds, and state disability rights laws. Some people ask about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, abbreviated IDEA, which is the law for educating children with disabilities, and whether it applies to colleges or universities. IDEA does not apply to colleges or universities. IDEA applies to children and elementary, middle, and high school, K through 12. IDEA requires that the children receive free and appropriate education for K through 12. Programs after high school, colleges, universities, and vocational rehabilitation fall under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act. For faculty and staff who work at colleges and universities, title one of the ADA will apply, plus the Rehabilitation Act as well.

Does the ADA protect all deaf and hard of hearing students who go to colleges or universities?

The ADA has a specific definition of disability, which means that a person must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. Physical impairments include deafness, being hard of hearing, and hearing loss. The phrase "major life activity" includes hearing and speaking, which often are the challenge for many deaf and hard of hearing people.

Does that mean that being deaf or hard of hearing is an automatic disability under the ADA? It depends upon how much you can hear and how well you can speak and whether you are substantially limited in hearing or speaking. If you're profoundly deaf, you are likely protected under the ADA.

If you are hard of hearing and can function as a hearing person, it means that you may not be considered to have a disability. However, if you are hard of hearing and tend to misinformation when relying on your hearing, you might be considered disabled under the ADA.

Many years ago, the Supreme Court, in many cases, decided that if you use any means to reduce the effects of your disability-- for example, if your leg was amputated and you use a prosthesis and can walk comfortably-- you might not have a disability.

If you have a mental illness and medication reduces the symptoms so that you can function on a daily basis, you might not have a disability.

If you have an illness and take medication every day to manage it, you might not have a disability. That was the Supreme Court's decision. However, Congress looked at that decision and concluded they were wrong, and went back to the initial meaning of the ADA by instituting the ADA Amendment Act, abbreviated ADAAA.

The ADAAA brought the definition of disability back to its original intent, so that anyone who uses equipment, technology, or medication to ameliorate their disability is nevertheless considered disabled under the ADA. Prior to the ADAAA, deaf or hard of hearing persons using hearing aids or cochlear implants might not qualify as persons with disabilities. Now, with the ADAAA, deaf or hard of hearing persons using hearing aids or cochlear implants are likely to be considered to have a disability because they are unable to hear well without the device. Now, many deaf and hard of hearing people do not consider themselves disabled. They are very independent, and the only thing they can't do is hear. For the ADA, it is required to have a disability in order to receive protection. If you want the protection of the ADA for employment purposes or while attending college or university, you must have a legal disability. For purposes of the ADA, the legal disability of deaf and hard of hearing individuals is a substantial limitation on the ability to hear or speak. With that legal disability, deaf and hard of hearing people are protected under the ADA.

Where must post-secondary institutions provide access under the ADA? Access is not limited to classrooms only. Colleges, universities, and programs beyond high school must provide access to all programs and services on and off campus. This applies to all students, faculty, and staff.

The general rule is that all physical facilities on campus must be physically accessible. One example would be the provision of ramps for people in wheelchairs. All buildings on campuses must have these ramps for access, as well as elevators to reach second or third or higher level floors.

Deaf and hard of hearing people must have visual access to warnings.

If a building was built before 1992 and has not been modified since then, it is generally exempt from these requirements. However, if colleges or universities hold classes in them, they must conform to the ADA's rules. This is true for any building. Any building built after 1992 with any number of floors must be physically accessible, period. Plus, if a college, university, or post-high school program has classes, tours, or events off campus, and deaf or hard of hearing individuals are required to attend, those events must be accessible. For example, if a university requires one to attend a tour of a museum for a class, and the museum refuses to provide an interpreter, both the university and the museum are responsible for providing communication access for deaf or hard of hearing students. That's just one example.

If any event is hosted on campus where the public attends, even if it's not the university's, the college is responsible to make sure access is available to all.

If a university hosts an event off campus, like a party at a restaurant or in a public park, they are responsible for providing communication access for deaf and hard of hearing participants.

In total, any program or service must be accessible, on campus or off campus, in a building or not.

If the university requires or offers programs for educational or entertainment purposes or as part of a college program, then they must provide access, including communication access for deaf and hard of hearing people. Also, if a university has a partnership with another country's educational institution, they must make sure that the other program provides access to students with disabilities.

Under the ADA, what equipment must post-secondary institutions provide to deaf and hard of hearing students? Deaf and hard of hearing people have their own different individual needs, and it is not possible to do a single thing to accommodate all such needs. But buildings will have to have the same general accommodations for everyone. Let's take assistive listening devices. FM loops in classrooms or meetings or microphones for instructors might be needed by some deaf or hard of hearing students and not by others. If the university is aware of an individual's needs or requests, then it needs to be ready to provide the appropriate access equipment. This means that for each classroom where a student might need such equipment, the teacher for that classroom needs to have the equipment available. If a student has an interpreter in the classroom, then the student may not need the assistive listening device or any other equipment. Each building at a college or university must have visual signals for emergencies or warnings. Things such as fire alarms, tornado alarms, hurricanes, or any other emergency specific to an area must have a visual way of notifying deaf and hard of hearing people so that they can ready themselves to evacuate the area. Also, an emergency preparedness plan must be set up in the event of a hurricane or other disaster to notify deaf and hard of hearing people by using strobe lights or other displayed notices.

If workers or students in an area need the ability to answer a door or phone call, flashers must be provided for the doorbell and for the telephone. Universities and colleges are not required to provide personal assistive listening devices like hearing aids or cochlear implants. Those, as well as eyeglasses, are considered personal needs and are not the university's nor the college's responsibility. Those things are better accessed through an insurance policy, doctor, or hospital, or might have to be paid for out of pocket.

But colleges and universities are responsible for communication through a telephone network.

Although TTYs are being phased out, they are still a device that can be provided for access to telephone communication.

Now, videophones, or VPs, are being installed on campuses for improved access to video relay services and telephone communication.

Also, universities and colleges are responsible for providing captioning on televisions which are on campus.

Such areas include student unions and dorm areas where students congregate.

Classrooms that tend to show videos should have captioning made available. Any movie or video made by the university or college must include captions. If films or videos from outside sources are shown, they should be equipped with a way to display captions.

If films are shown regularly, they should be captioned or have communication access provided in some other way, such as bringing in an interpreter. These are some of the many different ways that equipment can be provided to make sure a deaf and hard of hearing people have access to universities' and colleges' classrooms and events.

What does the ADA say about services that colleges and universities must provide for deaf and hard of hearing students? This is not an easy question to answer, because each individual has their own way of learning auditorily and visually. Colleges and universities have to figure this out on a case-by-case basis. Generally, if a deaf or hard of hearing student does not make any request, then the institution has no way of knowing what services are needed. The deaf or hard of hearing student should make requests for specific services that they need for educational purposes. For education or employment or other events, the deaf or hard of hearing person must request services from the college or university. Such requested services can include sign language interpreting in ASL or signed English or other signed languages. Oral interpreting is also an option for a deaf student who is seated in such a way that they have trouble seeing the speaker. Also, cued speech can be used for those who might not know sign language nor be able to speech read. Real-time captioning, CART, C-Print, Typewell, or any kind of speech-to-text process can be used.

Deaf students with some residual hearing can benefit from an assistive listening device, which can connect them through their hearing aid to a teacher's microphone or headset.

Or, other accommodations can be used in classrooms or on the job by faculty, staff, or students. For example, deaf students who are watching an interpreter may not be able to take notes at the same time. So they might also need a note taker. Other accommodations might be needed to assist a student with another disability, like vision problems or a learning disability. For them, other accommodations may be added to fit their needs.

Universities and colleges might have to adjust their policies, practices, and requirements toward classrooms. Some classes require specific tests to be taken that may be difficult for the deaf or hard of hearing student. This does not mean the tests should be waived or that the deaf student must take the test as it is without accommodation. Instead, there are ways to accommodate their needs.

For example, in a science class, an experiment might require the student to determine the peak amplitude of a tuning fork. This experiment requires the ability to hear the tuning fork to understand the concept for passing the class. A deaf student might not be able to do this experiment as it is, but may have another way to do it. That student could use an oscilloscope to visualize the waveform and determine the amplitude that way. This means the deaf or hard of hearing student would be able to learn the same concept for the class in a different way. They would then be able to pass the test without being waived from an important lesson. There always has to be a dialogue between the deaf or hard of hearing student and the university to come to an agreement on the best way for the student to learn and the best way for the university to provide access. It is important to have this dialogue in order to meet their needs.

How can deaf and hard of hearing students effectively get services from colleges or universities? First, the deaf or hard of hearing student must figure out what services they need for effective communication, whether it be an interpreter, real-time captioning, or assistive listening devices. Then they have to explain their need to the college or university, including the reasons for such need. This request must be made well in advance of a course or an event. That way, the college or university has plenty of time to gather the necessary resources.

Just because you request a specific accommodation, that does not mean that the university or college has to provide that service. They must provide effective communication. If you feel that a specific service is the only way effective communication can be accomplished, you must explain why that one service is the only way to meet your needs. For example, you could explain that an ASL interpreter is the only way you can communicate effectively in a classroom because your English fluency makes other options ineffective. Or if you are able to read speech-to-text service but do not have ASL fluency, then you need to explain this as the reason for your request for speech-to-text. Make sure you document any communication requests in writing. If you have no documentation, you have no proof of your request. Make sure you keep a copy for your own records. Later, if they deny receipt of your request, you can show proof of said request. If they refuse to provide you with your communication needs, don't immediately give up and file a formal grievance. It is important to negotiate first. If, after negotiating, the contact person still denies your request, continue up the chain of command until at last you reach the president of the college or university. If the president then refuses your request, then it's time to file a formal grievance. You can file in any of the following agencies-- federal, state, local government, or even in court. Understand that the process could take years to get what you need, which is why it should be a last resort. It's always best to negotiate first. Now that you know what you have to do, it's imperative to remember these three points-- know exactly what your needs are, know why they are effective for you, and to document and record all of your requests.

Thank you for watching this educational program about your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act for deaf and hard of hearing people who attend colleges and universities. If you need more information, please contact PEPNet at their website, Thank you.

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Part two explains the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and how it applies to postsecondary education for students who are deaf and hard of hearing. Viewers learn the differences between the ADA and other legislation, such as the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). Current CEO of NAD, Howard Rosenblum narrates and shows how the law impacts access and accommodations as well as the provisions of equipment. This segment is also presented in American Sign Language. Part of the "The Americans With Disabilities Act" series.

Media Details

Runtime: 23 minutes

The Americans With Disabilities Act
Episode 1
34 minutes
Grade Level: PT/TT -
The Americans With Disabilities Act
Episode 2
23 minutes
Grade Level: PT/TT -

Viewer Comments

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    Michael D. (Tucson, AZ)
    May 9th, 2019 at 05:55 PM

    Video is good quality and the material is very informative. A pretty technical topic, but definitely provides good information in a precise and clear way.