Access Means A Lot of Things

By Dr. Daniel B. Swartz, CI, CT, SC:L, ED:K-12

Access?  What’s that?!?  It means different things to different people. Merriam-Webster defines it:

Full Definition of access

1   a : onset

     b : a fit of intense feeling : outburst

2. a : permission, liberty, or ability to enter, approach, or pass to and from a place or to approach or communicate with a person or thing

     b : freedom or ability to obtain or make use of something

     c : a way or means of access

     d : the act or an instance of accessing

3: an increase by addition <a sudden access of wealth>

“Permission, liberty, or ability to… communicate with a person or thing.”  I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty profound. Focusing on liberty and ability, to me that’s really the thrust of what deaf and hard of hearing people face when it comes to access. While one may have the ability to access communication, be it via ASL, PSE, SEE, Tadoma, tactile, Haptics, gestures, etc., they may not be at liberty to engage in communication with others because of various barriers (different languages, deaf-to-hearing, lack of intermediary, aka – interpreter). 

And while that precious liberty may exist to communicate with each other, it can be repressed due to insufficient accommodations, such as needing a hearing interpreter AND a deaf interpreter. To me, you pretty much need the ability AND the liberty to gain access to communication cross-culturally. Oh, and permission. I think the Constitution guarantees that, with various laws since providing further reinforcement, i.e. Section 504, ADA, etc.  Permission granted? Yes. End of story? No. 

Still, 26 years after the sweeping, far-reaching passage of the ADA, deaf and hard of hearing people still confront barriers to “access” all too frequently. Frustrating. Exasperating. Numbing. Illegal. 

Yes, ILLEGAL. Not criminally breaking the law, but certainly a violation of constitutional and civil rights. I have heard, ad nauseum, stories of access being denied. Access to communication. Sometimes the deaf or hard of hearing person knows their rights are violated, sometimes they don’t. More often than not they know, but are so tired of fighting the system. Too tired to take on the hospital that refuses to provide an interpreter, instead opting for an iPad or a VRI hookup that is less than dependable. Certainly not ideal. And if English isn’t the native language (rarely it is), an iPad or writing back in forth might be totally ineffective, as well as dangerous, leading down a slippery slope of failed communication. 

More on this later. 360 Translations has an announcement coming soon about access, and how Philadelphia and NJ deaf and hard of hearing folks can flex their muscle. We are with you. Let’s continue to fight the fight for rights!!

1 reply
  1. rhonda abbott
    rhonda abbott says:

    Clearly the writer of this blog is in our corner and advocating for deaf/hoh civil rights.
    It is imperative that we band together to strive for our rights–a victory for one of us is ideally a victory for all.


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