The NAD Law and Advocacy Center advocates on public policy issues of concern to the deaf and hard of hearing community, particularly at the national level, and often in collaboration with other national organizations. We provide general legal information about deaf-related issues and discrimination law. We also respond to hundreds of emails and calls every month for information, advocacy support, legal advice, representation, and referral. Our attorneys represent individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing in carefully selected disability discrimination civil rights cases.
Does the NAD Law and Advocacy Center have offices in other states?
The NAD Law and Advocacy Center has only one office, located in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Does the NAD Law and Advocacy Center help hard of hearing people too?
Yes, the NAD Law and Advocacy Center advocates on behalf of and responds to inquiries from deaf, hard of hearing, late-deafened, and DeafBlind individuals, and their families and friends. Our attorneys also represent individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, late-deafened, or DeafBlind in carefully selected disability discrimination civil rights cases.
Do I have to pay for their legal services?
There is no charge for routine inquiries, information, advocacy support, advice, and referral. Legal representation in carefully selected disability discrimination civil rights cases by NAD Law and Advocacy Center attorneys is provided in accordance with the terms of an attorney-client representation agreement. Courts may award attorney fees and costs (other expenses) to the prevailing (successful) party in civil rights cases. Settlement agreements may also provide for legal fees, costs, or other awards.
Will they take my case?
The NAD Law and Advocacy Center provides legal representation in a few carefully selected disability discrimination civil rights cases. Our attorneys evaluate each complaint individually, considering the law and the facts of each case. Our attorneys may co-counsel with attorneys who are licensed in other states, but only on a limited, court-approved, case-by-case basis. Our attorneys can also consult with attorneys who represent deaf or hard of hearing clients.
We also focuses on public policy issues, particularly at the national level, and provides individuals with information, advocacy support, advice, and referral.
In the meantime, please use the legal and advocacy information on the NAD website, including Tips for More Effective Advocacy and How to Find and Work with a Lawyer.
Can I hire a NAD attorney to handle my divorce or other non-disability related legal case?
The NAD Law and Advocacy Center attorneys are only able to take disability discrimination civil rights issues and cases.
How do I find a lawyer in my area?
Some tips to help you find an advocate or lawyer in your state who may be able to help you with discrimination or other legal problem:
- Contact your state’s office that serves people who are deaf or hard of hearing, or the office that serves people with disabilities, for advocacy support and information about advocacy and legal services in your state.
- The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) is the largest provider of legally-based disability discrimination advocacy services in the United States. There is at least one NDRN office in every state and territory. The nickname for these offices is “Protection and Advocacy” or “P&A.” Go to their website and find the P&A office in your state.
- Your state’s P&A office may be able to help you.
- If your state’s P&A office cannot help you, they may be able to give you names of lawyers in your state who may be able to help you.
- You may prefer a lawyer who is deaf or hard of hearing, a lawyer who understands and is familiar with deaf and hard of hearing people. However, you need a lawyer who is experienced in your type of legal problem. Like doctors, most lawyers have expertise in specific areas of the law. For example, a lawyer who defends people accused of a crime might not be a good choice if you need a divorce. When you contact lawyers, ask them if they have experience with your kind of legal problem. If they do not, ask them if they can recommend a lawyer who can handle your kind of legal problem.
- If you and your lawyer have trouble communicating, ask the lawyer to provide an interpreter, captioning, or other way to communicate effectively with you. If the lawyer does not know about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), ask the lawyer to contact the NAD Law and Advocacy Center.
- Search the Internet for your state’s name and the words “bar association” (the association for lawyers licensed in your state) (for example, search for “Maryland Bar Association”). Most state bar associations have a “lawyer referral” program. They may give you the names of several lawyers who handle your type of legal problem. Often, there will be a low cost for the first consultation. After you meet the lawyer, the lawyer will explain his or her usual fee arrangements and you can decide if you want to hire that lawyer. If you are unemployed or have a very low income, you may be eligible for free legal help from your local legal aid society, legal services office, or a nearby law school’s legal clinic program. If you are charged with a crime, you may be eligible for a court-appointed lawyer or public defender.
- Explore How to Find and Work with a Lawyer or contact the NAD Law and Advocacy Center.
How do I file a discrimination complaint?
The NAD strongly encourages every individual to file complaints when you experience discrimination. When no one complains, the discrimination will probably continue. When no one complains, enforcement agencies don’t know there is a problem and will not take steps to correct it.
It is up to all of us to try to correct discriminatory practices. When you file a complaint, you also raise awareness that there is discrimination taking place. When many people file complaints, enforcement agencies are more likely to take action to stop the discrimination.
How and where to file a complaint depends on many factors. Most complaint rules have time limits for filing a complaint, so don’t wait to file your complaint later. You can explore some resources to learn how to file a complaint — the page lists many (not all) possible situations, be sure to select one that applies to your situation. You may have additional rights under federal and state law.
Filing a complaint requires you to tell a story about what happened. Most times, a complaint is a letter explaining the incident. However, some agencies have complaint form. Your complaint may include a copy of any documents that show what happened, such as e-mail communications, letters, notes, pictures faxes, and video recordings. If you need help writing or filing your complaint, you can contact the agency that handles your kind of complaint.
I am a service provider, do I need to pay for interpreter and other accommodations for a deaf or hard of hearing client/patient?
Businesses and services providers must ensure effective communication with people who are deaf or hard of hearing under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This federal law applies to a wide range of “places of public accommodation,” including retail stores and the wide range of service businesses such as hotels, theaters, restaurants, doctors’ and lawyers’ offices, optometrists, dentists, banks, insurance agencies, museums, parks, libraries, day care centers, recreational programs, social service agencies and private schools. It covers both profit and non-profit organizations. Places of public accommodation must give persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in and to benefit from their services. They must modify their policies and practices when necessary to provide equal access to services and facilities. In order to provide equal access, all public accommodations are required to provide auxiliary aids and services, such as qualified interpreters or captioning, when necessary to ensure effective communication.
Auxiliary aids and services must be provided unless the entity can demonstrate that doing so would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, or would constitute an undue burden (significant difficulty or expense). Whether or not a particular auxiliary aid or service constitutes an undue burden depends on a variety of factors, including the nature and cost of the auxiliary aid or service, and the overall financial and other resources of the business. The undue burden standard is applied on a case-by-case basis. Undue burden is not measured by the amount of income the business is receiving from a deaf or hard of hearing client, patient, customer, or member of the public. Instead, undue burden is measured by the overall financial impact on the whole entity. Therefore, it is possible for a business to be responsible for providing auxiliary aids and services even if it does not make a sale or receive income from a deaf or hard of hearing person, if the cost of the auxiliary aid or service would not be an undue burden on its overall operation.
For more information, see ADA Title III: Public Accommodations.
State and local government agencies and service providers must ensure effective communication with people who are deaf or hard of hearing under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This federal law applies to all types of state and local government agencies, including courts, schools, social service agencies, legislatures, commissions and councils, recreational facilities, libraries, and state/county/city departments and agencies of all kinds. It applies to activities that are administered directly by government agencies, and to activities that are carried out by private subcontractors. Under the ADA, state and local agencies are required to give equal access and equally effective services to people with disabilities. They may not deny people an opportunity to participate in their programs, or give them an opportunity that is less effective than the opportunity given to others. Often, the public entity must provide qualified interpreters, captioning, and other auxiliary aids to ensure effective communication with deaf or hard of hearing people. The appropriate auxiliary aid depends on many factors, such as the type of communication used by the individual and the situation in which the communication occurs. An auxiliary aid that is appropriate for one person, or in one context, may be useless in another setting or for a person with a different type of hearing loss.
For more information, see ADA Title II: State and Local Government Services.
Public and private entities and service providers that are recipients of federal financial assistance have obligations to ensure effective communication with people who are deaf or hard of hearing under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which provides:
No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States…shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance…
29 U.S.C. § 794(a).
These obligations under Section 504 are very similar to the obligations under the ADA described above.
For more information, please contact the NAD Law and Advocacy Center.
I’m a deaf person studying in the medical field, but my school or company does not know how to accommodate me, what do I do?
We recommend that you contact a group of deaf medical professionals as they may have ideas on such resources, http://amphl.org/.
I’m not receiving TRS accommodations, what can I do?
The NAD seeks to ensure that all places of public accommodations understand their legal obligations with respect to dealing with deaf and hard of hearing individuals who use telecommunications relay services (TRS). The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has clear mandates requiring places of public accommodation to provide effective communication to clients who are deaf and hard of hearing, including over the telephone. Public accommodations who run afoul of such provisions are subject to legal action and have been the focus of investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).