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Cultural Misconceptions about Deaf People and the Challenge for the Courts by The Supreme Court of Ohio & Ohio Judicial System

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Hearing Loss.

  • Deaf and hard of hearing individuals make up the largest disability group in the United states.
  • Hearing loss is an invisible disability.
  • Deaf and hard of hearing individuals have different abilities to function depending on the level of hearing loss.
  • Communication using speech varies depending on many factors including: age of hearing loss, degree of hearing loss, amount of speech therapy, etc.

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Hearing Loss Statistics.

  • U.S. Disability: 54.0 million.
  • U.S. Deaf/HH: 28.0 million.
  • U.S. Deaf: 1.5 million.
  • U.S. Late Deafened 1.5 million.
  • U.S. HH: 25.0 million.
  • Michigan Disability: 2.0 million.
  • Michigan Deaf/HH 1.0 million.
  • Michigan Deaf: 90,000.
  • Michigan HH: 900,000.
    • Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Nat. Institute on Deafness and Communication Disorders and NAD Deaf Population of U.S.A. (1995-1999).
  • Approximately 40% are under age 65.
  • Approximately 2 million are under the age of 18.
  • Hearing loss is the third leading chronic disability following arthritis and hypertension.
  • Only 6.3 million people who can benefit from hearing aids actually wear them.
    • Source: Hearing Alliance of America, Inc. (1997) & The Hearing Review (2002).

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Why Consider an Accommodation for Communication: Interpreter, Computerized Assisted Realtime Transcription or Assistive Listening Device?

Federal and State Laws Require It.

NAD Law Center Memorandums

Department of Justice (DOJ) Settlement Agreements

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Communication Accommodations.

It is required by ADA and Section 504 to honor the choice of the Deaf or hard of hearing person as to what accommodation is required. (28 CFR PART 35 Subpart E -- Communications 35.160 General)

  • ASL (American Sign Language) Interpreter.
  • Signed English Interpreter.
  • Deaf Interpreter or Intermediary Interpreter.
  • Oral Interpreter.
  • Interpreter for a Deaf-Blind individual.
  • How many Interpreters are needed? (more than one Deaf person in courtroom). (Bednarski v Bednarski)
  • Certification/Qualification level of Interpreters used as an accommodation.
  • Assistive listening devices. (in working order or with new batteries).
  • CART-- Real-time captioning.
  • TTY and amplified phones.

Interpreters.

  • An Interpreter Oath is to be used to swear in the Interpreter in court.
  • Factors considered by the DOJ to be considered when determining whether a qualified interpreter is required. (28 CFR PART 35 Subpart E -- Communications 35.160 General)
    • The number of people involved in the communication.
    • The length of the communication.
    • The complexity of the conversation. (i.e. extensive terminology--medical, legal, educational, etc.)
    • Importance and context. (i.e. directions, hours of operation, request copies of forms, etc. vs. Miranda Warning, Chemical Test Rights, etc.)
  • Certified Interpreters pass a national testing system through the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and/or the National Association of the Deaf (NAD).
  • Quality Assurance (QA) Interpreters pass a state test through Michigan’s Division on Deaf and Hard of Hearing. (Family Independence Agency).
  • Ask to see the Interpreter’s current certification/qualification cards.
  • A certified/qualified Interpreter abides by a Code of Ethics. If he/she does not feel his/her skill meets the communication needs of the individual, the court or appointing authority will be notified that another Interpreter is needed. This does not mean he/she is a poor Interpreter. It means he/she is conscientious of the Code of Ethics, recognizing limitations in a particular situation and wants to ensure EFFECTIVE communication takes place.
  • Interpreter vs Signer
    • A Signer can communicate using sign language.
    • An Interpreter is fluent in two or more languages and can change English to ASL and ASL to English.
    • A person may be able to sign. But to interpret, requires specific skills and training and continuing education.
    • A signer may be a family member.
    • The ADA recommends not using a family member to interpret for a Deaf or hard of hearing person..
    • A Certified Interpreter is capable of assessing the language needs of the Deaf or hard of hearing individual.
  • Verify generic information to be sure the Interpreter and the Deaf or Hard of Hearing person are communicating effectively.
  • For situations longer than 2 hours, two interpreters are usually needed.
  • A case involving more than one Deaf or hard of hearing individual may require more than one Interpreter. (Bednarski v Bednarski)
  • Keep your Interpreter list/agencies current and handy.
  • Keep processes current - i.e. how to coordinate, how to pay Interpreter.

Assistive Listening Systems.

  • Assistive listening devices are used by persons who have a hearing loss to assist their using their residual hearing and comprehension of spoken messages.
  • The location of the assistive technology is important.
  • Signage should be used to indicate where accommdations can be found.

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Lip-reading is Not Always Effective.

  • At best, only 20-30% of spoken English can be read on the lips.
  • Many English words look the same on the lips. Examples: bump, mump, and pump as they all start with a different letter but look the same on the lips.
  • An expert lip-reader is able to lip-read about one out of five words.
  • The rest of the conversation is either guessed or figured out by the subject content or environmental clues. If missed, then the intent of the speaker is lost.

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Culture/Courtesy Issues:

  • Establish effective communication prior to getting down to business.
  • Face the Deaf or hard of hearing person directly.
  • Use good eye contact.
  • Speak a little louder and more slowly than usual (approx. 124 words/min.).
  • Shouting or yelling does not help a person understand the message better. It distorts speech sounds and often makes the speaker sound angry.
  • Don’t over exaggerate pronouncing words.
  • Avoid covering your mouth or face with your hands.
  • Taking turns talking in the situation.
  • Avoid careless expressions that can be misinterpreted.
  • Avoid background noise if possible.
  • Don’t stand with your back to a bright light.
  • Location of Interpreters and/or assistive devices. (to avoid visual distractions).
  • Give visual cues to conversation.
  • Use first person tense when utilizing an Interpreter.
  • Rephrase if the person does not understand what you are saying.
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat if necessary. Avoid telling the person "never mind" or "it wasn't important".

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Myths about Deaf and Hard of Hearing Individuals:

  • Deaf & hard of hearing people have below average intelligence .
  • Deaf People can’t talk.
  • Deaf people can read and write, so they do not need an Interpreter.
  • Hearing aids make speech sounds clear and understandable.
  • Lipreading is as easy as listening.
  • Deaf or hard of hearing people who speak well do not require accommodations.
  • When Deaf or hard of hearing people nod their heads it means “yes” or “I agree” .
  • Hard of hearing people can hear when they want to .
  • An infrared listening system meets the needs of all hard of hearing people.
  • Minor children can interpret for their deaf or hard of hearing parents.
  • Deaf parents of hearing children are not entitled to an Interpreter when their child is before law enforcement or the courts.
  • Deaf and hard of hearing family members are not entitled to ask for accommodations to participate or witness court proceedings.
  • Attorneys have provided accommodations to Deaf or hard of hearing clients prior to questioning, so there are no surprises and everyone is fully informed.

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Deaf and Hard of Hearing People’s Perceptions of the Legal System:

  • Law enforcement personnel, attorneys, and judges should know the laws. If they don’t know about ADA, Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, P. A. 204, then how do I trust them?
  • Who do I inform that the Interpreter does not meet my needs for effective communication? If I do this, will I suffer consequences later?
  • I want a certified Interpreter. The police department and court should know better than give me an Interpreter that is not certified/qualified.
  • My wife can hear and sign some. I asked the police officer or court for an interpreter so I could understand what was going on. He/She said no, and that my wife can tell me later. That is not fair. I have a right to know what is going on and participate at the same time.
  • They took my hearing aids away. How can I communicate with them?
  • I asked for an assistive listening device. The judge or police officer said we don’t have those things here. They said they would just talk louder.

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Difficulties Encountered by Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons in the Legal Arena

  • A “yes nod” of the head does not necessarily indicate the person is answering affirmatively. Nodding the head might be the person’s feedback to the Interpreter that they understand what is being interpreted.
  • Be aware that the Interpreter must portray the exact mood and tone of a speaker in their signing and must match their voice to the Deaf person’s signing. Watch and see that both match each other. Just as a sentence can be said two different ways and have different meanings, if the mood is not matched with voice and body language, the meaning can be misunderstood and the response may be incorrect.
  • Have a case flagged so that an accommodation is arranged ahead of time for the entire legal process. Arrange for Interpreters early. Michigan has the seventh largest Deaf population and is 45th in the U.S. for number of Interpreters. All of these Interpreters are not qualified to interpret in court.
  • Be aware that “tricks” with words cannot always be interpreted effectively into ASL.
  • Double negatives used in a sentence cannot always be interpreted effectively into ASL.
  • Keep questioning simple, when possible. Long, complex sentences lose their meaning or intent when interpreted. They can become leading questions when interpreted into ASL.
  • Understand if an Interpreter asks for clarification. Law enforcement persons, attorneys and judges must be specific when asking questions so the Interpreter can choose the appropriate signs and minimize confusion. Examples are:
    • The word “touch” must include “where touched” so the Interpreter can relay the appropriate concept of which part of the body was touched. Otherwise a Deaf or hard of hearing individual might say no to one area when in fact they were touched on another part of the body.
    • “Abuse” and “Weapon” are other examples. Be specific. What kind of abuse? What kind of Weapon?
    • The word "Drink" has different conceptual signs for an alcoholic drink or a beverage. Without clarification as to the type of drink, the wrong conceptual sign might be used resulting in an answer that would not be a true and accurate response.
  • Don’t leave the Interpreter alone with a Deaf person being interrogated or interviewed. When you leave the room, the Interpreter will leave the room, also.
  • Don’t ask the Interpreter to sign a statement that the Deaf or hard of hearing person made. It is the individual that should sign his/her statement.
  • Don’t ask the Interpreter to testify about an incident he/she interpreted. Interpreters do not keep notes. They are in many interpreting situations and keeping facts about what happened at each assignment accurate is not possible.
  • Unless otherwise specified, most Interpreters are booked up to two hours. Because of this time element, try to put their case first to allow plenty of time before the Interpreter must leave to go to the next assignment.
  • Law enforcement personnel who can sign need to inform the Deaf or hard of hearing persons that they cannot remain neutral and will use information given to them. It is best to provide a professional Interpreter who will maintain neutrality when neutrality may become an issue.
  • For Deaf and hard of hearing persons who do NOT sign, writing notes MAY be effective communication. BUT, everything must be written down for equal access to the same information everyone else gets.
  • Eye contact is very important for both Deaf and hard of hearing persons when trying to communicate with other persons. Remove dark glasses and maintain eye contact.
  • When using assistive listening devices, it is important to place the microphones so that hard of hearing people can hear and to avoid picking up extraneous sounds.
  • Don't assume a person can speech read. This needs to be determined first.
  • When asking a person to summarize what they believe they heard in order to verify comprehension, do it in a way that does not demean the individual with the hearing loss.

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Language

  • American Sign Language (ASL) is considered to be a foreign language with its own syntax different from English.
  • For many Deaf and hard of hearing individuals, English is their second language.
  • ASL is a conceptual language. Not every word in English has an individual sign.
  • Many English words and phrases have multiple meanings. ASL uses the signs expressing the appropriate concept or meaning of the word. When reading English sentences, a Deaf person may not understand which concept is intended by the written English word. However, when seeing the concept in ASL, the meaning is clearly understood.

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The Average Reading Level of Deaf Individuals is 3rd to 5th Grade. This Reflects Reading and Writing Levels -- NOT Intelligence Levels!

  • The Miranda Warning has a 7.4 grade reading level.
    The Breath, Blood, Urine, Test Statement (Chemical Test Rights) has a 9.45 grade reading level.
  • 90% of Deaf or hard of hearing children have hearing parents.
  • The majority of hearing parents never learn to sign effectively.
  • Limited or no communication in the home delays language development.
  • By age 8, a child has developed his language that will be used to build on for the rest of his life.
  • Deaf or hard of hearing children often do not start acquiring language until age 3 or 4.
  • Because of the language delay, Deaf children are often two to eight years behind their peers in education.
  • Delayed language development makes learning a second language more difficult. English is often the second language.
  • Passive learning occurs with children when they are playing and continue to learn by hearing the TV, family members, and surrounding events. Deaf or hard of hearing children miss out on these things and only learn what they see.
  • Many parents of Deaf and hard of hearing children are not informed of the various communication modes, services, programs and resources available to them.
  • Assistive listening technology is new for many persons with a hearing loss. Suggest this accommodation if they are struggling with communication. Referrals to persons with technical expertise is recommended.

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  • Types of Hearing Loss
  • Facts on Hearing Loss in Adults
  • Facts on Hearing Loss in Children
  • Early Hearing Detection & Intervention (EHDI) Recommendations
  • Methods and Costs for Newborn Hearing Screening
  • Benefits of Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI)
  • Facts on Hearing Aids
  • Facts on Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs)

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FOR FURTHER TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE:

Department of Justice ADA Home Page
http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/adahom1.htm
Toll-Free ADA Information Line
Call to obtain answers to general and technical
questions about the ADA and to order
technical assistance materials:
800-514-0301 (voice)
800-514-0383 (TDD)

 

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