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Government Implementation of the Standard Rules
As Seen By Member Organizations of
World Federation of the Deaf - WFD

USA


Download 'WFD Reports on the UN Standard Rules' as a PDF file (240 KB)
© Dimitris Michailakis 1997

National Association of the Deaf, USA
Compare with the following Country Report(s): the US Government, ILSMH


General policy

The officially recognized disability policy is expressed in law, in guidelines adopted by the government, in guidelines adopted by the National Disability Council and in policy adopted by NGOs. According to the Government, disability policy is expressed in law. The emphasis - in descending scale - in this policy is on anti-discrimination law, accessibility measures, individual support, rehabilitation, prevention.

Since the adoption of the Standard Rules, the government has taken the following measures in order to convey the message of full participation: public service announcements, media awareness efforts, information materials, outreach education and training (grassroots), employer training awareness, etc.


Legislation

The rights of persons with disabilities are protected by special legislation and general legislation. The judicial mechanisms adopted to protect the rights of persons with disabilities include: due process (legal remedy through courts) and recourse procedure by a special agency, dealing with anti-discrimination issues. Non-judicial mechanisms include an Ombudsman, a governmental body (administrative), independent expert bodies and a special arbitration/conciliation body. The National Association of the Deaf states, however, that many of these services are inaccessible for deaf/hard of hearing people,

General legislation - unless you count the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as general legislation - does not apply to persons with different disabilities with respect to: education, employment, the right to marriage, the right to parenthood/family, political rights, access to court-of-law, the right to privacy or to property rights. The following benefits are guaranteed by law to persons with disabilities: health and medical care (partially), training, rehabilitation and counselling, financial security, independent living, participation in decisions affecting themselves (to a certain degree), the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of disability. According to the Government, only the benefits of health and medical care and financial security are guaranteed by law.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 has been enacted, since the adoption of the Standard Rules.


Accessibility

There are laws and regulations, up to a certain point according to the Association, for ensuring accessibility of the built environment which establish national design standards requiring that public places, the outdoor environment, land, sea, air (not all airports are accessible) transportation and housing are made accessible. Accessibility in the built environment is observed by a national authority and by local governments. The enforcement, however, is weak insofar as accessibility needs of deaf/hard of hearing persons are concerned according to the Association. The following measures have been promoted by the government to facilitate accessibility in the built environment: levelling off pavements, marking parking areas, installing automatic doors, lifts, accessible toilets, ensuring access to public places, improving accessibility in housing providing financial incentives/support for accessibility measures in housing, installing special lighting and using contrast colours for visually impaired and providing specially adapted motor vehicles. The association adds that the government has facilitated access but many programmes and places are still not fully accessible, especially with regard to the communication needs of deaf/hard of hearing people. Special transport arrangements include: a city/county bus system available for the purpose of medical treatment, education, work (to a limited degree) and for recreational purpose. The most difficult obstacles, when planning to build accessible environments, are attitudinal factors, economic/budgetary factors, technical factors and lack of enforcement mechanism. There is no awareness component incorporated in the training of planners, architects and construction engineers. Whenever there is such a component, such awareness, according to the Association, is not uniformly applied or required. According to the Government, there is a disability awareness component incorporated in the training of planners, architects and construction engineers.

As the status of sign language for deaf people the Association states that: îrecognition is far more the case on the statutory (state) level than federalî. According to the Government, sign language is recognized as the main means of communication between deaf persons and others. The government measures to encourage media to make their services accessible for persons with disabilities are very limited with regard to the needs of deaf people. The new Telecommunications Act of 1996 will further such access opportunities. There are other government services to make other forms of public information services accessible to persons with disabilities. These include closed captioning of television programmes (prime time) and media activities (to a limited degree). The following services are provided in order to facilitate information and communication between persons with disabilities and other persons: literature in Braille/tape, news magazines on tape/Braille (limited) and sign language interpretation is available, up to a point, for any purpose. Sign language services are available under the ADA for objective communication in employment and by state and local governments and public communications.


Organizations of persons with disabilities

A national umbrella organization was recently (1996) formed, the American Association of People with Disabilities. The National Association of Deaf represents the interests of deaf and hard of hearing Americans (28 millions) in the USA. According to the Government, there is no national umbrella organization of persons with disabilities but several groups who might be considered as leaders in their fields.The provisions, if any are very limited mandating the representatives of persons with disabilities to participate in policy-making or to work with governmental institutions. Disability organisations are often consulted when laws and regulations with a disability aspect are being prepared. Consultations, when they take place, occur at the national level. The government gives financial and organizational/logistic support to organizations of persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities participate to a very limited extent in government, legislatures, judiciary, political parties and to a great extent in NGOs. The role of disabled persons organizations is to advocate rights and improved services, mobilize persons with disabilities, identify needs and priorities, participate in the planning, implementation and evaluation of services and measures, contribute to public awareness and provide services. According to the Government, organizations also promote/organize income generating activities.


Co-ordination of work

According to the Association, there is actually no single point of contact or department or entity responsible for disability affairs. The issues have usually been addressed in various ways via various national councils or commissions. The co-ordinating committees report to the President. The Committees include representatives of several Ministries, of organizations of persons with disabilities, other NGOs, and from the private sector. The government expects the committee to participate in policy development. Expectations to perform other tasks vary according to the specific council/commission. The establishment of the co-ordinating committee has had the following effects: improved co-ordination of measures/programmes in the disability field, improved legislation, improved integration of responsibility, a better dialogue in the disability field, more accurate planning, more effective use of resources and improved promotion of public awareness. As the question if the adoption of the Rules has led to a rethinking of the approach to disability policy the Association states that disability policy affairs have been on the rise for the last five years. Many more people with disabilities representing persons with disabilities, than ever in history, are now in presidential appointed positions in government. There is more sharing of information and resources among disability organizations and a greater consumer awareness and involvement in government policy, for the dealing of matters at all levels.


Contents of the WFD Report | Compare with the following Country Report(s): the US Government, ILSMH