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Court Adjusts to Deaf Attorney
By Anthony Colarossi

Scott Harrison possessed all the qualities a public defender looks for in a young attorney. He was smart, confident, personable. He loved being in court.

In a field where talented people often move on to the private sector for better pay, Harrison boasted six years of trial-court experience. Orange-Osceola Public Defender Bob Wesley liked what he saw so much he recruited Harrison from a small court circuit in Pensacola.

But Harrison arrived in Orlando with a disability -- he is deaf, with an 80 percent hearing loss. Although he speaks clearly and reads lips perfectly, his deafness presents challenges.

Since arriving three months ago, Harrison has encountered problems that have forced trial delays and raised questions about how to accommodate courtworkers with disabilities. More...

NCRA PUSHES TO RESTORE CAPTIONING FUNDS AND CLARIFY PARENT'S RIGHTS TO CART SERVICES FOR THEIR CHILDREN

NCRA, working closely with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Alliance (DHHA), is lobbying Congress to restore the $19 million in federal funding set aside annually for captioning educational programming. Fiscally conservative legislators have removed this funding from H.R. 1350, the House version of a bill to reauthorize the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

"We are disappointed that the version of the legislation, which we expect the House of Representatives to take up on April 30, eliminates funding that has paid for a small part of the captioning services that 28 million deaf or hard-of-hearing Americans need to assure access to vital news, information and educational programming. While only a small part of all captioned television programming relies upon these Education Department grants, this program has made a significant contribution to the cause of accessibility and warrants continuation," said NCRA Executive Director Mark Golden. (Golden is also co-chair of DHHA, a coalition of the major national deaf and hard-of-hearing consumer and professional organizations that has been deeply involved in congressional efforts to reauthorize IDEA.)

Although the House has yet to demonstrate any flexibility in its position regarding funding for educational programming captioning, the Senate has not yet released its version of the bill, which is expected next week. "We have been meeting with Senate staff and hope to influence them to preserve captioning funding in their bill," Golden said. "If we can get language in the Senate bill, we will still have a fighting chance when the Senate and House go into conference to reconcile the two versions of the bill."

In addition to the captioning issue, H.R. 1350 and the expected Senate version of the bill touch on other, important communication access issues. NCRA is also attempting to add language to the bill on communication access realtime translation (CART), which would demonstrate congressional support for this critical service. "CART is not specifically referenced in the current legislation, although it is an established service relied upon by many deaf and hard-of-hearing students in American classrooms," Golden said. "If such a reference were included in the reauthorization, it would strengthen the ability of parents in obtaining CART and captioning services for their children. Too often, these parents face costly and frustrating challenges demonstrating to school systems that CART and captioning are, indeed, included in the IDEA regulations setting out the 'related services' that must be available for their children in secondary school settings."

NCRA, working alongside our DHHA coalition members, was successful in getting an amendment considered in House Committee hearings on H.R. 1350 that would add a definition of CART to the related services language of the bill. Although the amendment received positive and bipartisan support in committee discussions, it was not included in the bill as voted out of committee. NCRA is optimistic, however, that CART will be prominently discussed in legislative report language that will accompany the bill when it moves to the House floor for a vote. "We will also continue to lobby the Senate to also address the CART issue," Golden said.

While the organized Hill efforts of NCRA and its partner, DHHA, to restore the captioning funds and reaffirm the importance of CART will continue, constituent support plays a critical role in any federal legislative effort.

Call or e-mail your Senators and Representatives today on this important issue and ask them to restore the captioning funding in the IDEA bill. Grass-roots activity will let Congress know that this is a vital issue not only to captioning and CART providers, but also to their consumers - the 28 million deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans who rely on broadcast captioning and CART. You can find contact information for your Senators at www.senate.gov and your Representatives at www.house.gov.

LEGISLATION SEEKS $60 MILLION FOR REALTIME TRAINING

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., working with NCRA, introduced bipartisan legislation with 76 additional members of Congress that will help meet the increasing demand for broadcast captioning and communication access realtime translation services by millions of Americans. The Training for Realtime Writers Act seeks $60 million over three years to train realtime writers to meet the captioning and CART requirements established by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. "Similar bipartisan legislation generated tremendous support last year, when 115 Representatives and 28 Senators signed onto the bills," said Mark J. Golden, CAE, executive director of NCRA. "Unfortunately, Congress was unable to act on the bills due to the budget impasse and other key issues such as homeland security.

"This increasing need for court reporters specially trained as captioners and CART providers is creating a critical shortage," Golden continued. "Sen. Harkin's and Rep. Kind's bills will help eliminate the current shortage of reporters and make sure that we have enough people to do the work. Captioning companies and broadcasters will need qualified reporters to caption tens of thousands of hours of live programming every week. This is in addition to the tremendous need for full communication access that only CART providers can offer in school and other settings."

Under this new legislation, court reporting programs that meet the established eligibility requirements could apply to the Department of Education for grants to establish or continue realtime training programs. The schools could use the money to develop a long-distance learning capability, design a curriculum to more effectively train students, provide scholarships, recruit students, hire faculty and assist with job placement. Moreover, veteran reporters could retrain as realtime writers. In the last two years, Congress allocated almost $10 million to meet the immediate need to train more realtime writers. Eighteen schools around the country received grants to expand their closed captioning and realtime writing programs.

FIGHT FOR MARYLAND HARD-OF-HEARING SERVICES

Early this year the Maryland State Senate subcommittee on Health and Human Services proposed two amendments that would significantly affect deaf-and-hard of hearing citizens in the state. The amendments eliminate the third support staff position and $10,000 from the Office of Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ODHH) budget. The loss of funding would have decreased Maryland's deaf and hard-of-hearing population's access to Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART), as subcommittee members believed individuals relying on CART could also make use of sign interpreting.

In response, NCRA sent letters in support of Governor Ehrlich's proposal to increase the ODHH budget by $70,000 as well as keeping the third support position for fiscal year 2004. Based on the large amount of support from NCRA and other groups, as well as testimony during the hearings, the ODHH was able to clear up misunderstandings regarding the use of interpreters to replace CART services.

Both the House and Senate subcommittees have agreed to retain $10,000 for CART services but decided to cut the third position for an administrative aide/interpreter. If both branches vote in support of the subcommittee's decision, the ODHH will receive approximately $216,000 for FY'04.

CART/CAPTIONING MENTIONED IN FCC ACCESSIBILITY HANDBOOK

In the Federal Communication Communication's (FCC) Section 504: Programs and Activities Accessibility Handbook, CART is noted as a reasonable accommodation. It is presented as a word-for-word speech-to-text that "Provides a complete translation of all spoken words and environmental sounds, empowering consumers to decide for themselves what information is important to them."

The Handbook continues by describing how CART is done and where it may be used, listing a broad number of settings. CART is depicted, as a versatile technology that also allows for sensitivity to the consumer's individuals needs. It also endorses NCRA by mentioning the RPR and CRR certifications. For more on Section 504 visit: http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/dro/section_504.html

IT'S ETHICALLY RIGHT, IT'S MORALLY RIGHT AND IT'S LEGALLY OBLIGATED

An article in the December 11, 2002, Iowa State Daily, the student newspaper of the Iowa State University, reported on the use of technology to assist students with disabilities. The first article in the three-part series focused on Katie Greiman, a senior in communications studies who is legally deaf.

According to the article, Greiman was unaware of the assistance during the first two years of her studies, but after a friend informed her of the technology and the requirement to aid students with disabilities, Greiman started using remote CART (captioning) and also CART services. She told the paper, "I've had the captioning system for a year and it's helped me a lot."

For the classes with are realtimed to her remotely, the instructor wears a headset that transmits his voice via phone line to a CART provider in Colorado, who then transcribes the lecture. Greiman can read the "nearly perfect transcript" on a computer screen at her desk. The CART provider also e-mails her a transcript following the class. In another class, the CART provider sits next to her in the usual configuration.

According to the article, Greiman used to have a note-taker who would give her a carbon copy after each class. CART allows her to be more involved in the class; she told the paper, "In the past I didn't have any assistance in my classes and I missed many of the things that were going on."

The article states that most of Greiman's professors are willing to help by doing things like wearing headsets so that Greiman can participate in class. Professor Richard Haws, one of Greiman's headset-wearing teachers, told the paper, "It just hasn't been that big of a problem. My only concern is that these accommodations help the students."

Todd Herriot, the Iowa State University director of disability resources, explained that the teachers are professionally liable if they choose not to help provide access to a student with disabilities. Also interviewed by the paper, Herriot said, "It's ethically right, it's morally right and it's legally obligated. When an instructor doesn't accommodate someone with disabilities, they remain wide open for legal action."




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