An online advocacy seminar presented last month by our New York State Association was attended by over 300 people, according to HLAA’s national office. The event, “Hearing Accessibility and the Law: Your Rights and How to Obtain Them,” was organized by Chapter member Jerry Bergman and hosted by the national office as its March nationwide webinar offering.
The seminar featured three attorneys with many years of experience dealing with disability rights issues: John Waldo, one of the nation’s best-known attorneys representing people with hearing loss; John Herrion, director of disability rights for the New York State Division of Human Rights; and Marc Fliedner, director of the Protection and Advocacy for Individual Rights Program of Disability Rights New York.
John Waldo explained that achieving accessibility is generally a three-step process that begins with a cordial inquiry requesting that a needed accommodation be provided. When such inquiries are denied or ignored, Waldo recommends sending a letter repeating the request and gently indicating that the accommodation to provide “effective communication” is required under law. He noted that when such letters are sent by attorneys they usually get the attention of venue decision-makers and result in settlements. The third step, filing a lawsuit, is often avoided, in Waldo’s experience, when the other side realizes that the cost of litigation is likely to far exceed the cost of becoming more accessible.
Attorneys Herrion and Fliedner explained that both of their state agencies have convenient ways of filing complaints. Once the agencies determine that a federal, state or local human rights law is being violated they agree to represent the individual and pursue a settlement. All three attorneys noted that no financial payment is required for them to take on cases.
Among the issues addressed by the panelists during the Q+A period were: obtaining disability rights in the workplace; accessibility under law at airports and on airplanes; accessibility in healthcare, from hospitals and physicians’ offices to telemedicine services.
Two handouts mentioned were “What is a Public Accommodation?” and “Reasonable Accommodation – Employment,” both from Disability Rights New York. They can be downloaded from https://www.dropbox.com/s/qpbxiwttxxs5xp5/ada-public-accomodations-title-3.pdf?dl=0 and https://www.dropbox.com/s/6yb8qunnu5d3dxs/reasonable-accommodation-employment.pdf?dl=0.
A video of the seminar will soon be available from HLAA’s website, at https://www.hearingloss.org/programs-events/webinars/schedule-recordings/.