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So far 2017 has been a busy year for legislators and advocates who have diligently worked together to ensure equal access for the deaf and hard of hearing. For many, all that hard work culminated in March with the passing of legislation.

On March 17, 2017, Governor Herbert signed HB 60 into law. With this signing, the state of Utah has made history as the first state in the nation to replace the term “hearing impaired” with “deaf and hard of hearing” throughout all Utah code. This change shows that Utah acknowledges it’s DHoH community not as something in need of a fix, but rather a rich, diverse, and proud culture. This small change speaks volumes and is paving the way for many other states to follow suit.  At last count, four more states have put forth bills to strike the term “hearing impaired” from their codes and laws as well.  We may be a bit biased, but Listen Technologies has never been more proud to be headquartered in the great state of Utah!

In other good news, New York City has taken a giant leap towards accessibility and civic engagement with the passing of Intro-882-A.  Sponsored by Council Member Helen Rosenthal, Intro 882-A requires a hearing loop be installed in any city-funded building project with one or more public assembly areas. This legislation applies to all renovations or new construction with a cost of $950,000 or more.  With projects under current capital planning, this will include close to 300 venues across New York City!

“With this bill, the City of New York will ensure that more and more spaces every year will be truly accessible to those hard of hearing. Hearing loop technology makes such a radical difference in the ability of so many to participate fully in public life, and I’m proud that as a City we have moved to make it not just a priority but a requirement in our public investments. I want to thank the advocates whose hard work made this possible, educating me and other policymakers on the importance of this issue and helping us reach a path toward getting this landmark legislation passed,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.

Other aspects of this bill were thoughtfully included to encourage the use and success of the newly installed hearing loops. Directional signage will be required in all public areas with loop technology installed.  Additionally, Intro 882-A requires that information, security, and reception areas in all newly looped venues be made accessible via micro-loops. By July 2018, the office of the New York City Mayor will be required to maintain an online list of city managed facilities with hearing loops, including those slated to receive them going forward.

New York City is the first major city in the United States to enact legislation of this kind.  In doing so, they demonstrated that they value the input of their deaf and hard of hearing community members and are actively working toward inclusivity. Way to go New York City!