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Accessible Services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Individuals

Accessible Services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (Hoh) Individuals.

Hearing accessible technology and services are crucial to creating an inclusive environment so that everyone can participate, regardless of how well they hear. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, and DOC policy requires that meetings, conferences, presentations, training, and other events, be accessible to individuals with disabilities. This means all multimedia presentations and pre-recorded videos used during these events must contain open or closed captions, regardless of the anticipated audience. This rule does not apply to video created or purchased before June 21, 2001. Additionally, all livestreamed events, viewable by employees or the public, must be captioned.

For more information on available resources for captioning or sign language interpreting services, contact the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) or your Bureau Reasonable Accommodations Coordinators.

How To Make an Event Accessible to Deaf or Hard of Hearing (Hoh)?

  • If you are planning a conference, meeting, training, or other event that is open to employees and/or the public, you must provide Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART)/ real-time captioning and, when requested, sign language interpreting services.
  • Event coordinators should inform attendees that requests for sign language interpreting services should be made at least 2 weeks prior to the start of the event to ensure availability.
  • All event announcements, notifications, or invitations posted, delivered, or published for these events, must inform attendees that sign language interpreting and/or CART/captioning services will be available and explain how to obtain these services.
  • Some applications like MS Teams, Zoom, WebEx, and other virtual platforms, provide built in captioning capabilities. Attendees should be told how to access captions when using these platforms.

Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART)/CAPTIONING Services

CART or “real-time” captioning is capturing spoken word and displaying it to view either on a laptop computer or projected on a large screen. CART provides a verbatim translation of every spoken word including environmental sounds. This can either be displayed on a laptop computer for one individual consumer, or it could be projected onto a large screen for multiple consumers to view at the same time.

Video Remote Interpreting (VRI)

VRI is a form of sign language interpreting that allows people who are Deaf or hard of hearing (Hoh) to communicate with a hearing person at the same location via videoconferencing instead of live, on-site interpreting. VRI is especially useful when (1) there is a lack of available qualified interpreters; or (2) when an interpreter is needed immediately and there is no available on-site interpreter.

How to acquire CART/Captioning or VRI services?

For a list of CART/Captioning or VRI service providers, go to the GSA Schedule 738 II (Language Services). The organization hosting the event is responsible for ensuring the event is accessible, therefore, pays for CART/captioning or VRI services.

How To Request Sign Language Interpreting Service?

Sign Language Interpreting Services (SLIS) are necessary to ensure effective communication between Deaf and hearing individuals. The Department of Commerce provides SLIS through on-site staff and/or contract interpreters. Interpreters are also available to assist with questions about deafness, Deaf culture, and communication issues which arise between Deaf and hearing co-workers.

Requesting Interpreting Services at Herbert C. Hoover Building (HCHB)

  • The Office of Civil Rights provides a part-time on-site Sign Language Interpreter to support short-term requests from Commerce employees and visitors doing business in HCHB. To request services, call (202) 482-4481 (Voice) or (202) 888-7763 (VP) or e-mail slanguage@doc.gov. It is always best to request services as early as possible. Any requests for services made less than 2 weeks from the start of an event date are not guaranteed. Assignments lasting over two hours will require prior coordination for additional interpreters.
  • Additionally, OCR's on-site Sign Language Interpreter provides flexible "short-term" interpreting assignments during the regular workday and is limited to HCHB. If you are hosting a special event such as a conference, training session, employee retreat, or a special all-day meeting, your office or bureau is responsible for scheduling and paying for the sign language interpreting service directly. To get a list of sign language interpreters, go to the GSA Schedule 738 II (Language Services).
  • Some bureaus offer on-site sign language interpreting services. To find out how to request sign language interpreting services at your facility, contact your Bureau Reasonable Accommodations Coordinators.

When to Use an Interpreter?

If you are Deaf or hard-of-hearing (Hoh) or have a Deaf or hard-of-hearing (Hoh) employee or co-worker, you should request an interpreter (live or remote/VRI) whenever communication is needed between employee and supervisor or between co-workers during official functions and business hours. Examples of when an interpreter should be used are:

  • One-on-one meetings between employees
  • Team meetings
  • Office staff meetings
  • Conferences or events open to employees and public (when requested)

How to Work with an Interpreter?

Remember the interpreter is only there to facilitate communication - not as a participant in the conversation.

  • Always look directly at the Deaf person - not the interpreter.
  • Address the Deaf person directly - do not preface questions with "ask her/him" or statements with "tell her/him".

Interpreters' Code of Ethics

Interpreters Code of Ethics: Interpreters are professionals who must follow a code of ethics which include:

  • Interpreters shall keep all assignment-related information strictly confidential.
  • Interpreters shall render the message faithfully, always conveying the content and spirit of the speaker.
  • Interpreters shall not counsel, advise, or interject personal opinions.