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New EEOC Publication Addresses Employment Rights of People with Hearing Loss

Latest Q&A Fact Sheet Coincides with Anniversary of Landmark Disabilities Act

Washington Cari M. Dominguez, Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), today announced the issuance of a new question-and-answer (Q&A) fact sheet on the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to job applicants and employees who are deaf or who have hearing impairments. The new publication, the sixth in a series of Q&A documents about specific disabilities in the workplace, is available online at www.eeoc.gov/facts/deafness.html.

One goal of this fact sheet is to counter the myth that individuals with some level of hearing loss are generally less competent, less productive, or would require more attention and supervision than their peers who do not have hearing loss, said Chair Dominguez, who announced the issuance of the new document at a town hall meeting sponsored by the National Council on Disability in observance of the 16th anniversary of the ADA.

She added: As our nation observes the anniversary of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, we should be mindful that disability does not mean inability, and that every individual deserves the freedom to compete on a fair and level playing field. People with disabilities represent a vast pool of untapped talent for employers.

The new Q&A publication includes many real-life examples that illustrate the kinds of jobs that people with hearing loss successfully perform and the wide range of accommodations available. Topics addressed in the document include:

  • When a hearing loss is a disability under the ADA;
  • When an employer may ask an applicant or employee about a hearing impairment and what it should do if an applicant voluntarily discloses the impairment;
  • What type of reasonable accommodation an applicant or employee with a hearing disability may need; and
  • What an employer should do if it has safety concerns about an applicant or employee with a hearing impairment.

According to published reports, between 2000 and 2004, estimates of the number of people in the United States with a self-described hearing difficulty ranged from 28.6 million to 31.5 million. A hearing difficulty can refer to the effects of many different hearing impairments of varying degrees. The number of individuals with hearing difficulty is expected to rise rapidly by the year 2010 when the baby-boomer generation reaches age 65. As compared to other age groups, the percentage of individuals with hearing difficulty is greatest among those individuals age 65 and above.

EEOCs latest ADA publication helps to advance the goals of the New Freedom Initiative, President George W. Bush's comprehensive strategy for the full integration of people with disabilities into all aspects of American life. The New Freedom Initiative seeks to promote greater access to technology, education, employment opportunities, and community life for people with disabilities. An important part of the New Freedom Initiative strategy for increasing employment opportunities involves providing employers with technical assistance on the ADA.

EEOC enforces Title I of the ADA, which prohibits employment discrimination against people with disabilities in the private sector and state and local governments, and the Rehabilitation Act's prohibitions against disability discrimination in the federal government. In addition, the EEOC enforces other federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, and age. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.

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