Does the ADA Discriminate Against Deaf People?
As an unfunded federal mandate, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires public and private entities to ensure disability accommodations without providing state funding to pay for these accommodations. Disability accommodations under the ADA can take many forms, including audio description of a museum exhibit, designated parking for people with disabilities, or accessible toilet stalls. For each of these examples, once it is established or installed, the accommodation is available to serve the needs of numerous disabled individuals. Individualized service accommodations for disability accessibility emerge only once the individual with the disability makes the request. For example, a deaf job candidate requests communication access for a job interview. The request for the accommodation is individual-dependent, and in the case of signed language interpreting, individual-specific and not fungible. Given that the unfunded mandate of the ADA does not directly provide a mechanism to alleviate expenses related to providing service accommodations to individuals, which can serve as a deterrent to inclusive practices, the question arises as to whether the ADA discriminates against individuals who require ongoing service accommodations.