Americans with Disabilities Act

Americans with Disabilities Act Q&A with Ed Zwilling and Adjacent Space September 30th

Video Transcript

[ID: (1) At the top left, there is a screen of a white woman in a black shirt. The background is black. (2) At the middle of the top row, a white woman is wearing a gray shirt. The background is black. (3) At the top right, a white man is wearing a black shirt. He is wearing round brown glasses. The background shows a cream-colored wall with a wooden desk at the right of the screen. (4) At the bottom left, a white woman is wearing a black shirt. She is wearing wire glasses. The background shows a light gray coloring. (5) At the bottom right, a white bearded man is wearing a blue-white patterned shirt. He is wearing rectangular glasses, and there is a window with white bars behind the man.]

 

Transcript:

 

Angelica (Anna is interpreting for Angelica): We want to see your face, Ed!

 

Ed (Jennifer is interpreting for Ed): Are you sure about that? Okay.

 

Angelica: Okay everyone, please turn off your video. Click on the box with three dots and close your video and microphone. Okay, hello everyone! Thank you for joining our Americans with Disabilities Act Zoom session with lawyer Ed Zwilling! Again, please make sure to close your video and microphone. If you have any questions, you can type the question in the Chat box and Trey and I will check your questions. If you prefer to sign your question instead, you can inform us that you would like to sign and we will spotlight you so that you can sign the question. Okay! Thank you Ed for joining, and thank you interpreters Anna Hayes and Jennifer Kuyrkendall! Anna will interpret for Angelica while Jennifer will interpret for Ed.

 

Adjacent Space is a nonprofit organization that promotes visual-tactile accessibility and equity for Deaf, hard-of-hearing, and Deafblind communities. ADA is about access for our communities, namely Deaf, hard-of-hearing, Deafblind, and allies. For people who work in medical settings, this will be a great opportunity for you to learn about ADA. Soon, Ed will be explaining about his expertise and experience, and then we can ask him questions that could be relevant to your workplace, medical center, doctor’s office, and etc to really understand the law of ADA and reasonable accommodations. We will now ask Ed questions. At the end, if you have any questions, you can either type in the Chat box or sign your question. If you prefer signing, then we will make sure to showcase your video so that you can ask your question in sign language. If you have more questions but you didn’t want to ask in front of everyone, we can arrange for you to have a private chat with Ed after. You can contact us via compliance@adjacentspace.org if you would like to have a confidential chat with Ed. 

 

We could support you if the situation calls for it. We’ll go by case-by-case basis. We’re happy to support you! Okay, could you explain your background, Ed? Your expertise with ADA?

 

Ed: Okay! Thank you all for joining! I’m honored to be here! I worked with the law in Alabama since 1992. I came from Virginia, and I’ve been here since 1989. I’ve been here for a long time, more than any time I spent in anywhere. In 2002, 10 years after I finished my law school I worked for a civil rights firm in Birmingham advocating for people with disabilities. I worked mainly for fair access to housing, rehabilitation act, ADA, and more. I worked there for 16 years. Two years ago, I decided to work independently. I’ve been working in this area of my expertise for 18 years, nationally. I also worked on fighting against architecture barriers, attitude barriers, and policy barriers. I advocated for effective methods of communication. If you have any questions or curiosities, let me know! I’ll be happy to answer!

 

Angelica: Awesome! And I want to share that Ed has been a huge help for our organization! We’re a new and young organization, but we want to get involved and help/advocate our communities—Ed really helped us—thank you! We’ve contacted Ed in past for legal counsel and advice, and he always answered every single of our question! Thank you!

 

Ed: Yes, of course! It’s my pleasure! Some questions may be very detailed, some questions I can anticipate getting, or I may get some surprise questions! I want to get you a heads up: a lot of answers that I will probably be sharing often: “it depends.” The law is not black and white. It’s very grey. You know the idiom: “early bird gets the worm?” It’s important for you to advocate for yourself. It’s important to get what you need instead of accepting stuff as it is. 

 

Angelica: You’re definitely right! We look forward to hearing your “it depends” answers! Okay, here’s the first question. We’re not sure if you’re able to give a direct answer, but here it goes: during the coronavirus pandemic, if someone goes to the doctor’s or dentist’s office, and they (the providers) don’t want a live interpreter due to coronavirus concerns and would prefer getting a video remote interpreter. You know how the term “essential worker” has grown during the pandemic. Does the term match interpreters? Are interpreters considered essential workers? CDC may have guidelines that may not be addressed by ADA. What is a Deaf individual’s rights when it comes to that? What do you think?

 

Ed: Well—for a surprise, my answer is… it depends. Effective communication—in the middle of a pandemic—do you remember when at the beginning of this pandemic everyone was not allowed to go anywhere. You can only go to work if you were labeled as an essential worker. Do you remember that time? Well, the rules were not as strict in Alabama as they are in other states. You have to understand to achieve effective communication plus accommodations, you must be aware of what we call “direct threat” which explains the threat of health in the communities. 

 

[ID: The screen now involves four people. (1) At the top left, there is a screen of a white woman in a black shirt. The background is black. (2) At the middle of the top row, a white woman is wearing a gray shirt. The background is black. (3) At the bottom left, a white woman is wearing a black shirt. She is wearing wire glasses. The background shows a light gray coloring. (4) At the bottom right, a white bearded man is wearing a blue-white patterned shirt. He is wearing rectangular glasses, and there is a window with white bars behind the man.]

 

So, let’s say…if a disabled person says she can’t wear a mask due to health problems. Does that mean my disability affect my health to wear a mask? Or do you mean you’re not comfortable wearing a mask? If you really can’t wear a mask due to a disability—such as PTSD—if wearing a mask triggers a panic attack due to PTSD then that is an acceptable form. Can Walmart tell you you cannot enter their store because you refused to wear mask? Yes, they can! Why? Because of the “direct threat” during a pandemic—only during pandemics--stores and establishments can prohibit you from entering due to a “direct threat.”

 

So, going back to the original question: are interpreters considered essential workers? I don’t know any legislative actions that have labeled interpreters as essential workers. For this discussion, let’s say they’re labeled as essential workers. If these places have a policy on how these workplaces and employees are capable of working with interpreters, then it is possible. Generally, people do not know how how to do this. They often don’t have policies in place. Even if they have policies, they don’t know how to apply it in their work. Or… [technical difficulties].

 

Anna: Jennifer froze for a bit.

 

Ed: So during a pandemic, many interpreters aren’t available. If an interpreter is labeled as an essential worker, they have an option… [technical difficulties]. 

 

Ed: So, again, it depends. Interpreters have an option either to show up for work or not. 

 

Angelica: Again, maybe that is relevant to policies. Do hospitals have policies? Would you suggest a deaf client to ask the hospital upfront what is their policy on serving for the deaf?

 

Ed: Absolutely. Yes. The best way to do this is to ask the hospital in advance. Some people thought that doctors will be aware that you are deaf based on your previous appointments with them. That may be true, but how many patients do a doctor see everyday? The doctor may have its assistant handling these duties in scheduling interpreters, etc. So, it’s important to contact them in advance. I understand that it can be exhausting having to contact them every time, but if you can make this a habit, then the doctor may understand that you require an interpreter every time you visit. In case of an emergency or a problem, they can realize that they need to get you an interpreter. Sometimes the secretary forgets to call for an interpreter, sometimes the doctor forgets to inform the secretary to call for one. I know a case where someone has to go to the hospital three times a year due to cancer. The staff at that hospital knows who this person is because they contacted the hospital numerous times about the patient’s disability. If this person goes to this hospital without any prior notification and he encounters a barrier, then that’s a policy failure. It’s not the patient’s fault that they failed to provide accommodations for him, but if he called in advance it could reduce problems for his visit. In a perfect world, you don’t have to do anything—they will take care everything for you! As for being in courts, they interpret effective accommodations differently, depends on the situation.

 

Angelica: Right. And deaf clients and patients need interpreters to communicate. Deafblind and hard-of-hearing individuals also need accommodations to communicate in these settings. Okay, moving on to the second question. Some doctors would prefer getting a video remote interpreter to save money. Common problems facing video remote interpreting include: unreliable connection, freezing screens, and staff that do not know how to utilize the monitor properly, or interpreters from other states not being familiar with regional signs, interpreters that do not have any important background information on deaf clients. Some deaf clients may feel that VRI is not reliable. How do they request for a live interpreter? And have these places follow through deaf clients’ requests for live interpreting?

 

Ed: Let me think about that question. I want to answer from an other practice’s perspective. Let’s use a person in wheelchair as an example. The concept applies to deaf people the same. VRI—from my experience many years ago… when did VRI originate? I think it was before 2002.

 

Angelica: I don’t know. I think it may be around when the technology was growing. When the text messaging came along, at around that time, probably.

 

Ed: It was around at that time, 2002. I handled a case that involved that back then. At that time I was part of a huge ADA advocacy group, we handled cases that involved people in wheelchairs, deaf people, blind people, people with disabilities, plus people without any disabilities. Even if I don’t represent a deaf person, I will still bring up needs and accommodations for deaf people anyway, even if I am not working with them at the moment. Like, for instance, if we are working with a hotel, we will bring up alarm lights, TTY, bed vibration clocks, etc. Like, “a deaf kit” that has comprehensive review of things that are needed for deaf people. One example, in a small town I asked them what their policy is on providing interpreters. They said that they have no policy in place because interpreters were so far away—no one is around locally. Not even one RID certified interpreter in this town, that’s why there is no policy. So, VRI is a great way to accommodate that temporarily. If they can’t find an interpreter or that you have to wait four, five, or six hours to get one—VRI helps in that regard. That, in my opinion, is when utilizing VRI is at its best. For example, someone got in a vehicle accident. This person is taken to the emergency room. Now, is this accident planned? No. Was the hospital planning to have an interpreter? No.  The hospital’s job is to save your life. VRI is necessary. Better than nothing, right? But for the permanent use? I disagree. ADA has three different categories of support. 

 

First: Advocacy in speaking for myself. There is a certain way you should do this. You are working with a business. Hospitals for an example—doctors, nurses, administrators are doing business. If you’re in a doctor’s room and the VRI is freezing, and you’re frustrated and you decide to tell your nurse. You try to explain to your nurse that VRI is not working at all. What will your nurse do? Will the nurse notify its supervisors? No, the nurse will not. If you want to order a burger from McDonald’s, and you needed to go to the bathroom while you’re not sure what to do with the food. If you decide to inform to the cashier, what will they do? Not much. If you try to explain your problem to the manager that you needed to go to the bathroom and you could not keep the food right now when you’re in a wheelchair, will the manager be understandable of your needs? You got to think in terms of business. If I had a bad experience with VRI and bad experience in physical access, write a letter to an administrator, i.e. your hospital administrator. I know I’ve been talking about a hospital, but this applies to anywhere. You can contact the city council. If something is going on and you don’t have any access—if sharing my experiences and responsibilities as a citizen is a barrier—then you should write to the mayor. You should contact the supervisor/the top of chain. Your complaining to the subordinates won’t really do anything. Your attitude should be businesslike. You shouldn’t ask—you tell them to follow the law. Most of the time, they don’t really know or understand the law. This would be a good teaching moment for them, even though they should already be aware of this law. When you teach them you are really helping the world. You’ll help people who need the law by teaching them at that moment. By being involved, you’re really helping other people. Sometimes I get excited by this because it’s something that we can fix for the future. 

 

So, to recap, you write a letter to the supervisor or the boss. In your letter, you name the requirement of ADA is like (www.ada.gov: there is a manual) and you should click on the effective communication tab and what is not considered effective tab. A warning: you may be confused in what is considered effective and what is not. But that’s how you can understand that. Businesses do not understand that. There is a gray area in the law. Department of Justice has printed different articles on that. But you can inform your business or workplace or anything that they need to do this, they need help on this, and send them important information like articles, etc… and you ask them to reply back to your letter. You should also include an expected reply date, like 14 days. If they haven’t responded, you can follow up. You also need to ask them to send you a policy for effective communication. You tell them you want to see a policy in place. In that approach, you must think in terms of a business. Do hospitals or these places want to purposefully discriminate against you? No. You need to inform them. Maybe your action can help them save a lot of lawsuits later. Now, you may not receive any word from them. That’s the first thing you should do. Write them a letter. Wait for their response. You need to advocate for yourself and become more knowledgeable. You have to explain what the law is about and educate them. Okay, now moving to the second point: the same thing as you do for the first thing; you continue to advocate for yourself. This includes making a formal complaint. You file a formal compliant. This distinction is important. The first thing is writing them a letter. The second is making a formal complaint. 

 

This is also called “administrative compliant.” It’s same as making a complaint in your workplace. The complaint will be sent to EEOC. EEOC is Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. EEOC is for employment. But if you’re a consumer in a restaurant, business, etc…the formal complaint filing process will go to the Department of Justice. They have a link on their website—very easy to find and contact them. You can file it electronically—just fill out dates, information, details, what happened, and explain how you didn’t have any effective communication and file it with Department of Justice. The referral can lead to an investigation and that can lead to a lawsuit. The government can get involved, and it’s because you just filed a complaint. Now I want to be clear: does this mean that every time you file a compliant, they will investigate immediately? No. But if more people continue to file a complaint against one place, then Department of Justice will be active.

 

Now let’s talk about the third point. You can hire your own lawyer. I want to emphasize this: when you hire your own lawyer, they shouldn’t charge you. Civil rights are about protecting disabled people and groups. Laws have what it’s called: “preventing parties”—it happens if you win a case, the offending company must pay the lawyer’s fees. You are not responsible for paying your lawyer fees. If the judge fines, there are usually other factors involved on why there are fines. If there was a case where your charge wasn’t deemed worthy or you didn’t have enough evidence—that could lead to a fine. That could mean your case wasn’t strong. Sometimes the lawyer doesn’t know. So that could lead to charges for civil rights. My point is that if you hire a lawyer and it’s about civil rights, you do not have to pay anything. I, as a lawyer, would hire an expert to justify your case—but anyway getting back to the point. These are options you can do. First, simple—you write a letter to the supervisor or the boss of that company. Second, you file a formal complaint. Third, you hire a lawyer. That sums it up. My suggestion? If you don’t like VRI… you will still get VRI anyway. If you don’t act, that is. You must act if you want to see change. 

 

Angelica: Right, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. All day work on Zoom/virtually. Sick of them already. Most deaf people are sick with VRI. Thank you for answering the question! Okay, moving on. Next question. When we want to file a complaint, what do we need to document? How can we document if we are experiencing something now? For example, let’s say I’m in a hospital room and I’m laying on the gurney. How can I document now? Maybe after my visit, I recall some stuff that were not right. How can I properly document stuff?

 

Ed: The most important thing you can do is document. It doesn’t matter what kind of situation. You can note everything on paper or your phone. Let’s talk about a scenario where an employee is working. The employee’s supervisor is talking to you—not via emailing or texting—talking to you. If the message isn’t appropriate—how do you document that? Once the boss leaves, you go ahead and type everything that you heard and then you email your boss what your boss told you. Then ask your boss if you’ve missed anything or misunderstood something and ask them to let you know if you did. Then you submit that email. That is called documentation. If they answer you back and said that you misunderstood them, then okay. If they don’t respond or realize that they made a mistake, then you have documentation on hand. Try to document as soon as you can when it’s possible for you to do so. Use your phone to document. Get their names. Let’s say if you have an appointment to see your neurologist for exams. Communicate your needs. Ask them for an interpreter. If they follow up with VRI when you want a live interpreter. If they ignore you and say that they can only provide VRI, go ahead and get their names. Both first and last names. Document the time of the day. That will be worth it later because it shows that they are not properly trained. They may ask you who you asked to request for a live interpreter. The front desk receptionist usually does not know what to do. They also usually do not have any authority. They aren’t usually trained. The job usually has a high turnover. That’s why it’s important for you to continue contacting them on this matter. Make sure to document your dates on your calendar if there’s a pattern of repeated behavior. 

 

Ed: So, if you see that the VRI service is not functioning or that the staff lack training or knowledge on how to handle it, you document it right away. Document pictures if there are any. So at a later time you can use these as evidence when you file a formal complaint or bring a legal lawsuit. I had a different case where there was a guy in wheelchair. He needed to get on a city bus to go somewhere. This driver refused to let him get on the bus because he didn’t want to stop the bus to open the wheelchair ramp to allow him get on. This became into a habit where the driver would apparently openly discriminate him by not stopping for him when he’s near the bus stop. The driver may do that because he felt that it would be a waste of time, delaying the schedule, etc. So, in my lawsuit, this man took pictures of all discriminatory behaviors that the bus driver did. That helped us win the case. I know I went off on a lot of things but I hope that answered your question!

 

Angelica: Ha, yes you answered our question! Now, I noticed there are two questions that were typed in the Chat box. The first question asked if texting, not emailing, is an acceptable form of documentation. I guess this meant as in texting between the client and the provider. Is that an acceptable form of documentation?

 

Ed: That’s a great question. Many people do not have any deaf friends or family members—hearing people do not understand that English and ASL are two vastly different languages. Many hearing people do not know the difference. Hearing people do not understand that. Some people understand better at signing than they do writing English. It’s about your background, school, were you born deaf? Hard-of-hearing? Late deafened? Can you read and write well? Even if some people do not have any speaking or hearing disabilities—they still can have reading or writing problems even though they may not have any disabilities. So, if you are deaf and English isn’t your strength, like you are struggling with reading, writing, or expressing yourself then texting or writing is not considered an effective form of communication. For you. You may need someone around to accommodate your needs. There are many different kind of accommodations. Lipreading, for example, if that does not work for you then it is not effective communication. So, it depends on individual needs and preferences. So, that’s why it’s important for you to tell them you need a live interpreter. If you don’t tell them, then the businesses, places, hospitals will do whatever it is the easiest for them. They could find a volunteer interpreter to interpret for free of charge. The law says you cannot charge people with disabilities for accommodating services. But if a place forces you to bring your own interpreter, then that’s considered “structure” which would mean they save their money. So, for businesses—it’s important that you tell them you need interpreters.

 

Angelica: Right—texting related to a phone—saving the text conversations you have with your provider is an acceptable form of documentation that can be used in a lawsuit, right? 

 

Ed: Yes. Sometimes these texts can provide obvious and evident proof that communication at that time is not effective. It can show that clients do not understand their providers. Yes, save these text messages. Plus—you gotta check out your situation. Ok, let’s say you got sent to a hospital for a cut on your hand… and let’s say your blood cells are dropping and you got sent to an emergency room, and that’s different from the situation where your hand is cut. So, this process requires testing, checking, giving medics, etc—so it depends. Getting your hand taken care of, when compared to a heart problem—how can you explain that you got to stop taking medications during a time when you need to document? A live interpreter is needed here.  Imagine yourself going to a doctor’s office to get your diagnosis…only to see the communication is being written. Is that appropriate? No. 

 

Angelica: Right. You asked us if we can imagine that scenario. I’m pretty sure the audience can imagine that. 

 

Ed: Yes, I’m sure you do. I meant, sometimes, an interpreter isn’t needed at the moment. Sometimes you do need one. If I go and buy a car and I need to go through paperwork—do I need an interpreter? Yes, I do. But if I’m going for a test drive, do I need an interpreter to go in with me? No. It depends, again.

 

Angelica: Yes, that. I’ve noticed another question that relates to the supervisor question. If I work somewhere and my boss isn’t very receptive to my needs, what should I do? Can I go to the upper administration, higher than my boss if my needs aren’t met? Going up in the chain, or should I go with a third party to express my concerns? Like EEOC and DoJ, that. Is there a specific group I should ask about that?

 

Ed: Yes, okay. The answer is it depends on the situation. If the ADA isn’t being followed—how do I get to that point—if the workplace is involved with what is being called “interactive process.” You notify your employer that you need accommodations. Your accommodations must match to whatever the job they hire you to do for. Your accommodations must help you succeed your duties that you are hired for. If I can achieve my job duties without any accommodations, then the employer is not required to provide you accommodations. But if there are some duties that you are capable of doing without any accommodations but some duties that you can’t, it becomes into a question: is it reasonable? Is that “undue burden” for your employer? They have the right to recognize your needs but they can say that some certain accommodations are too expensive but offer different methods of accommodations. It becomes into a back-and-forth discussion in finding what accommodations work for you when there is undue burden. The disabled employee can offer different alternatives. For this process—the employer hasn’t broken any law…yet. The “undue burden” like “I can’t afford it”—can be sued. The process should be about back-and-forth discussion in finding what works best for both parties involved. In most of my cases, the employer never got involved in discussing in what accommodations they can provide for the employee. If they still refuse to discuss about it, then that’s a slam dunk case right there. An easy case win. 

 

Even though the accommodations may not be right, you are entitled an opportunity to discuss on what accommodations you need. If the employer does not entertain the discussion and refuses your needs, refuse to discuss other options, refuse to listen to your needs…that’s called discrimination. I hope that’s clear. So, to answer your question…it’s important that you go step by step and not to skip a step. Sometimes you don’t have a choice. So, there’s a right and wrong way to do this. I suggest you go step by step, and not to skip a step and tell your boss right away. Make sure to involve your Human Resources specialist, as people working in Human Resources often have the most legal training and experience. Human Resources representatives will usually contact the company’s lawyers for advice, and then the Human Resources can relay the advice to you. So, if you tried everything but you don’t get any answers…then you should go to EEOC, which is the last resort. 

 

Angelica: That’s great. We have one more from Zoom Chat and then we will go back to what we came up prior to this meeting. This question relates to someone who saw or witnessed the event. This could be an interpreter or a family member or friend who saw the discrimination. Sometimes interpreters may feel they want to support the deaf person—if they know a policy is broken…what kind of power does the witness have? If a nurse saw a policy being broken, what can we do? Who do we contact? 

 

Ed: Witnesses always help in any case. I know there were interpreters who have filed a complaint on their behalf before. I think it’s such a strange situation for an interpreter to be in. It could be a conflict of interest. Often, providers, hospitals, court cases, etc…they pay for interpreters, and these interpreters then file a complaint against them? It’s strange. “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you,” as they’re giving you money. That’s a very good question. Witnesses are always good. They help you with your documentation. In my experience, most of the time witnesses are family members who are working with deaf people. These places will ask family members to interpret for their deaf family members because they refuse to pay for interpreters. 

 

Angelica: Alright. Now let’s move on to another question. As we know, there are more things that are provided online. Events, webinars, workshops, etc are now online. What if captions aren’t enough? I saw some policies and laws that were passed that require companies to provide interpreting in their online content. Does this apply with ADA?

 

Ed: It depends. If it’s related to your work—trainings—are dependent on your work via Zoom…well there are many situations. Employers must give you accommodations you need to achieve your work. If captions work for you—as in you being proficient in reading and understanding English—then yes, captioning is effective. If captioning isn’t good for you, then you need to notify your employer in advance with specific and exact dates so that they can schedule an interpreter for you. If your company says no to your request for a live interpreter, then in my experience, we won cases like that. This is related for work. But now if it’s about volunteering—like you want to learn something on your own time, that’s when things get sticky. It really depends.

 

Angelica: And you call that as building something, like “brick and mortar” — do you mind expanding on that part?

 

Ed: Yes, thank you for reminding me. I don’t know if there are any deafblind person in this meeting tonight but… deaf, deaf.

 

Angelica: You said that deaf people who can hear? 

 

Ed: Oh! Sorry! I meant deaf people who can see…as for deafblind they may need someone to read the website for them. How can deafblind people read the website? I don’t know—can you explain that?

 

Angelica: Yes, there are some tools that are accessible for deafblind. Anyone wanna share that in this session?

 

Ed: I guess there is a HTML code for a website to match whatever an equipment needs. So, that’s my point. A lot of cases happened because no one is familiar in how to use technology to support the equipment needed to make content accessible. That reminds me of something. If I join an online event—before coronavirus—this event only came in online. That is different from if you had events in person only. When you host events in person you are required to have access to everything. But when you’re online, you aren’t required. There are not any rules, policies, and laws that are written that require access when you are fully virtual. In the Obama Administration, they tried to convince online businesses to comply with WCAG: Website Content Accessibility Guidelines. Department of Justice tried to get involved in being firm and tough on these guidelines, but it never really saw success for online businesses. 

 

Let me give you another example. If I want to get a plane ticket and I order from a company like Southwest. I call them and they told me that I would find a cheaper plane ticket online. That sounds good to me so I hang up my phone to order it via online. I have a box that can translate information for me via speaking so I go on their website. But due to faulty or missing coding, I am unable to retrieve information on cheaper plane tickets online. Now, because Southwest has a physical location, this means they are legally obligated to follow the ADA. Their website must be complaint to ADA. 

 

Here’s another example. If we want to book something from Hotels.com or Expedia.com, and they don’t have a physical location. Then the rules are different for them. ADA regulations do not apply to them. If there is a physical location, then the website must be accessible. If a website has no physical location, then they do not have to follow rules. So to answer your question: if it is relevant to employment, then the answer is a resounding yes. If it’s relevant to your work and it happens to be online, then your employer must give you accommodations. But if I’m doing it for my own personal choice and I need accommodations online…it really depends.

 

Angelica: I guess we should buy you a shirt that reads: “It depends.”

 

Ed: Haha—I think all lawyers should wear that shirt!

 

Angelica: Maybe interpreters, too. Okay. Let me check to see if there are any questions—again I want to be sure that we’re not taking too much time from your schedule! I also want to be sure we are mindful of Ed’s time too. If you have any more questions you would like to ask Ed, please contact us at compliance@adjacentspace.org and we’ll answer! It doesn’t matter if it’s a minor or serious question; we’re happy to hear from you! Okay, I need to back up a bit and ask one more question—if there’s a situation where the complaint is filed to the boss or the head of a company…is there a specific template or letter that we should write for our complaint? Is there a specific website we can look up for more information? Adjacent Space has collected all important information on people to contact when it comes to ADA complaints on our website, but is there more resources that our audience can use? Sometimes it can be overwhelming researching which places and sites to look for to contact suitable representatives for ADA complaints. Do you have any resources you can share?

 

Ed: For something like a letter demanding that the company offer accommodations, no. But if you want to write something, you can consult a lawyer, like me, to write up a statement to send to your company. It would still be considered a lawsuit, and we may seek for a settlement versus going all the way in the court. I’m happy to write a letter on your behalf if that will help solve a problem, but as a resource…a place where you can easily use to send to your company? No, I do not know anything. But I can point you to a list of various information, yes. There is a website called: www.ada.gov, and they have a technical manual of everything in different formats that you prefer, such as small/large texts, braille, and so forth. They have information relating where you live, in a small city, municipality, hospitals…they have a lot of help. Remember—ADA is a broad law, and they may not answer your detailed, specific problem with ADA for effective communication. You can find their guidelines, namely Title II (2) and see how they provide access. UAB is a pretty good entity in this area compared to some hospitals that aren’t so great. UAB falls under Title II technical assistance manual, because it’s related to state. But if you were talking about a private hospital, you need to refer to Title III (3) technical assistance manual. If you’re a student in a school, then the process is different. Department of Education is responsible, and you can file at Civil Rights department when it relates to school. 

 

Angelica: Great, thank you! There’s a question that relates to workplace negotiating for accommodations. If you’re in a discussion with your entity about getting accommodations and the discussion is ongoing but you’re not getting any results…how long does that take or is there a specific deadline that they need to respond or give accommodations? 

 

Ed: There was a situation that relates to that. There was a man who worked from home, and he is hearing impaired. He needed headphones to work for a call center. And these headphones were five times more expensive than the regular hearing aids, but this guy needs them for his work. So, this guy finally got headphones for his work, but it turned out to be faulty and it got broken…so things were sticky after that. Hold on, my battery is about to be gone. Let me recharge.

 

Angelica: We got just one more question to ask!

 

Ed: Sorry, I didn’t plug the charger for my laptop. Anyway, this guy asked his company for a new headphone, and his company said no—but offered repairs for it instead. His company said that in meantime he could just bear it for a short time until his headphones come back. Well, the repairs took few months, so I told my client that he needed to file a discrimination complaint (they’re good for 180 days). The grace period happens on the day when you’re discriminated—you must file a complaint within 180 days of the date where the discrimination occurred. If the discrimination at your workplace happens often, then count the grace period from the LAST time that you were discriminated. If they keep on discriminating you, then this proves that there is a pattern. 

 

Angelica: Good to know! 

 

Ed: That is for your employment only. But for anything else, you have a limitation of two years to file in state of Alabama. 

 

Angelica: Okay, thank you. Okay! Last question! We’re skipping a question, but we’re curious—is there a specific theme that you’ve consistently seen in our deaf community—by that I mean deaf, deafblind, and hard-of-hearing people. Is there any themes you have noticed often and if you have any advice you would share to us?

 

Ed: You must inform your needs. For me personally, it took me some time understanding what deaf culture is about and what it needs. I met a deaf client and I learned about his needs and I learned a lot more about deaf culture and community. Your upbringing, deaf school or mainstreamed school. Your communication preference, ASL or oralism? Culture? I don’t know. Your language comprehension skills? Gifted? Good life? Hearing people do not know. That’s my point. In my field, there are going to be people who have college degrees. High school degrees. So, you need to educate the public. If your needs aren’t being met…they just don’t understand or know what you really need. Usually they don’t want to discriminate you. They just don’t understand.

 

Angelica: Thank you very much. We appreciate your time in coming here! We want to wrap things up. This session will be recorded and saved. We’ll share this on our website—if that’s okay with you, Ed?

 

Ed: Yes, of course.

 

Angelica: We want to keep this video as a resource. You say you feel excited when you work, and I do feel the same. I’m excited to see what changes we can make! We want to advocate for changes. Anytime we learn about ADA, this resource is such a great way for us to cause changes for a better world! Thank you again!

 

Ed: Thank you all!

 

Angelica: Thank you everyone who came! Have a good night!

 

Ed: Bye!