The ability to hear sounds is one of your body’s “five senses”; along with being able to touch, see, taste, and smell. Total hearing loss (deafness) and hearing impairment are recognized physical disabilities under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and under our Connecticut state laws. If you think that your child has faced discrimination due to a hearing impairment, learn what can be done on this page.
What is a Hearing Impairment?
Hearing impairment, also known as hearing loss, occurs when a person loses part or all of their ability to hear. People with hearing impairment have a lesser ability to hear and understand sounds and noises.
Hearing impairments are classified based on their overall severity. The severity is determined by the minimum sound that can be heard by the person’s “better” ear.There are four classifications of hearing impairments:
- Mild – Difficulty hearing soft noises and problems with understanding spoken words in noisy settings, like classrooms, cafeterias, or auditoriums;
- Moderate – Difficulty hearing loud noises and problems with understanding spoken words without the use of hearing aids for amplification;
- Severe – Inability to hear most sounds, and need to rely upon lip-reading or sign language even with use of hearing aids when communicating with others; and
- Profound – Near complete inability to hear any sounds or noises. Hearing aids are not effective. Individuals with profound hearing impairment rely exclusively on sign language, lip-reading, reading and writing to communicate with others.
Hearing Impairment and Your Child’s Education
Hearing impairments can significantly impact your child’s education. These impairments can affect your student’s ability to learn and also to interact with the teacher and the other students in the classroom.
By law, hearing impaired students have the right to protection against discrimination because of their disability. Hearing impairment discrimination is usually not as obvious and blatant as other forms of discrimination; however, its silent effects can be equally devastating to those suffering from hearing impairments.
Discrimination against hearing impaired students typically involves either a failure to accurately diagnose the hearing impairment itself, the failure to offer services or accommodations within the classroom setting, or the refusal to follow recommendations made by the student’s treating physician or hearing loss specialist.
A Common Issue
Consider This: Charlie is a 12 year old middle school student who has mild hearing impairment. He is seated in the middle of the classroom, and he has a really hard time understanding spoken directions from his classroom teacher. Background noise from other students often interferes with his ability to learn.
Charlie’s parents have requested that he be moved to the front of the classroom and that he be provided with written directions, but the classroom teacher has refused, claiming it will be too burdensome and unfair to the other students. Charlie frequently misunderstands the teacher’s spoken directions and his grades suffer because he makes mistakes on his work as a result. Is this fair?
NO. Charlie is being discriminated against. The requested accommodations could easily be made by the classroom teacher. Charlie is underperforming because his hearing loss disability is not being serviced.
In the best situations, the child’s parents, pediatrician, and school officials work together to reach accommodations aimed at enabling the student to succeed in the classroom. Hearing impairment justifies special education services being provided to your child to assist them in the classroom.
What Does the Law Say?
There are two federal laws that work together to protect hearing impaired students against discrimination: (1) Section 504 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and (2) the Individuals with Disability Educational Act of 2004 (IDEA 2004). Under these laws, individualized educational plans (IEPs) are set up by a Planning and Placement Team (PPT) to assess the student’s current performance, determine what their learning needs require, and provide accommodation services to place the student on equal footing with all of the other students in the classroom.
Some of the more common accommodations for hearing impaired students include:
- Sign Language Interpreting;
- Real-time transcription services;
- Assistive Learning Devices (FM Units to amplify words spoken by the teacher);
- Note taking to ensure accurate classroom notes;
- Preferred Seating near the teacher to minimize distracting noises; and
- Live Voice Readers, particularly during tests, quizzes, and standardized testing.
If your child is hearing impaired, and you believe that he or she is not getting the help they need at school, please contact our attorneys. We are here to help!