National Association of the Deaf -

NAD and ERC Invite State Agencies in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia to Collaborate in Addressing Illegal Disability Discrimination

News from - May 13, 2021 - 9:53am
Investigation indicates agencies are failing to ensure equal and meaningful access to signing deaf and hard of hearing individuals seeking assistance with completion of applications for public benefits 

Washington, D.C., — May 13, 2021 — Today, the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and the Equal Rights Center (ERC) alerted Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia state and county agencies about disability discrimination in the administration of public benefits that a recent investigation uncovered.  The NAD and ERC invite these agencies to work quickly and collaboratively to ensure that no one is prevented from accessing critical public benefits, especially during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.  At the start of the pandemic, members of the disability community informed the NAD and the ERC that meaningful access to public benefits, particularly during the pandemic, is of paramount importance. As a result, the NAD and the ERC conducted a testing investigation of access to public benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in the region. 

The results of that investigation indicate that signing deaf and hard of hearing people have been denied meaningful and equal access to the assistance regional public benefits offices provide consumers in completing benefits applications because those state agencies have refused to provide any kind of interpretation assistance, including, but not limited to qualified American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters, either in person or virtually. The investigation also uncovered inconsistent and illegal responses to callers who identify as deaf or who are calling on behalf of deaf relatives when they requested ASL interpretation. These failures violate Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which require public entities to provide disabled consumers with meaningful access to, and equal opportunity to participate in, all agency programs, activities, and services.     

NAD CEO Howard A. Rosenblum comments, “We understand that state and county benefits agencies have faced many challenges in operating their programs over the last year. Yet, state agencies cannot ignore deaf and hard of hearing individuals, especially since they are among those most in need and marginalized, and that’s why we’re advocating for a collaborative solution.” 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that unemployment rates for persons with a disability were substantially higher than those for persons without a disability and, in 2020, 17.9 percent of persons with a disability were employed, down from 19.3 percent in 2019.[1] As members of the disability community, these numbers reflect the harsh reality for signing deaf persons and hard of hearing people, who face higher rates of unemployment than their non-disabled peers and who deserve and need equal access to public benefits. 

The investigation was based on civil rights testing, an investigative tool used to gather evidence, usually in order to compare conduct to legal requirements or a policy. It usually involves one or more people covertly engaging in a transaction or interaction. In some tests, callers received a flat “no” in response to questions about whether agency representatives could arrange ASL interpretation for a deaf applicant trying to complete a benefits application. In contrast, agents told testers they could help a hearing applicant complete their application over the phone. Some agents told testers that they needed to arrange interpretation services themselves and hung up on testers who attempted to clarify the process for doing so. Another tester was told, “Ma’am we don’t do that” in response to a request for interpretation assistance on an application. A state employee explicitly told a hearing tester calling about a deaf sibling who needed interpretation, “Now, if he’s deaf, he’s not going to be able to do it over the phone.”  Testers were also repeatedly told that they would need to find a hearing person to assist them with the application, as agency offices were closed to the public due to the pandemic. 

These examples represent egregious violations of federal law. The ADA and Section 504 require public entities to provide disabled consumers with meaningful access to, and equal opportunity to participate in, all agency programs, activities, and services. According to federal regulations, the obligation to “furnish appropriate auxiliary aids and services where necessary to afford an individual with a disability an equal opportunity to participate in, and enjoy the benefits of, a service, program, or activity conducted by a public entity” clearly falls on the public agency, not the individual with a disability. The ERC/NAD investigation shows a repeated failure on the part of the public entities in question to follow their obligations.

ERC Executive Director Kate Scott states, “The pandemic has had a devastating impact on many communities, including the disability community. Access to public benefits like SNAP and TANF can be life-saving, so even though we are all facing unprecedented challenges, compliance with civil rights obligations is absolutely vital. We are hopeful that the agencies we’ve been in touch with will accept our invitation to fix the problems our investigation uncovered.”

Rosenblum adds “Deaf and hard of hearing individuals need access to state services, and are often neglected during disasters and health crises. State agencies must be prepared for such events and we offer our assistance to ensure that readiness includes being able to serve our community.”

Anyone who is deaf or hard of hearing who has experienced discrimination in applying for public benefits is encouraged to report their experiences here

Advocacy letters were sent to the Maryland Department of Human Services, Virginia Department of Social Services, and West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, along with various county agencies in the three states.

The NAD and the ERC are represented in this matter by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and Handley Farah & Anderson. 


Kate Scott
Executive Director
Equal Rights Center
(202) 370-3220


ABOUT THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF THE DEAF: The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) is the nation’s premier civil rights organization of, by and for deaf and hard of hearing individuals in the United States of America. Established in 1880, the NAD was shaped by deaf leaders who believed in the right of the American deaf community to use sign language, to congregate on issues important to them, and to have its interests represented at the national level. The advocacy scope of the NAD is broad, covering a lifetime and impacting future generations in the areas of early intervention, education, employment, health care, technology, telecommunications, youth leadership, and more – improving the lives of millions of deaf and hard of hearing Americans. For more information, please visit

ABOUT THE EQUAL RIGHTS CENTER: The ERC is a civil rights organization that identifies and seeks to eliminate unlawful and unfair discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations in its home community of Greater Washington DC and nationwide. The ERC’s core strategy for identifying unlawful and unfair discrimination is civil rights testing. When the ERC identifies discrimination, it seeks to eliminate it through the use of testing data to educate the public and business community, support policy advocacy, conduct compliance testing and training, and, if necessary, take enforcement action. For more information, please visit

ABOUT THE WASHINGTON LAWYERS’ COMMITTEE: Founded in 1968, The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs works to create legal, economic and social equity through litigation, client and public education and public policy advocacy. While we fight discrimination against all people, we recognize the central role that current and historic race discrimination plays in sustaining inequity and recognize the critical importance of identifying, exposing, combatting and dismantling the systems that sustain racial oppression. For more information, please visit or call 202.319.1000. Follow us on Twitter at @WashLaw4CR.

ABOUT HANDLEY FARAH & ANDERSON: Handley Farah & Anderson are lawyers who seek to improve the world.  Based in Washington, D.C., they fight for: workers deprived of wages, consumers deceived about products, tenants denied access to housing, farmers mistreated by processors, parents deprived of adequate parental leave, investors who were defrauded, small businesses harmed by antitrust violations, persons with disabilities denied access, whistleblowers who uncover fraud, and women and communities of color subject to discrimination.  For more information, please visit

[1] Persons with a Disability: Labor Force Characteristics News Release ( Last visited April 20, 2021. 

TV Networks, Please Carry the ASL Interpreter Feed

News from - April 29, 2021 - 1:37pm

On April 28th, 2021, President Biden gave his first address to Congress on the eve of 100 days in office. Prior to the address, the White House announced they would be providing a feed of the American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter for this address — a first in U.S. history. The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) commended the White House for taking steps to ensure accessibility for all who are watching, including deaf and hard of hearing people. 

However, we were disappointed when TV networks carrying the broadcast did not also include the provided ASL interpreter feed through an appropriately sized picture-in-picture (PIP) inset so that deaf and hard of hearing people can access the address. With 48 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the U.S., it is critical to ensure we have access to the topics President Biden addressed last night through both accurate captioning and ASL. We thank CBS News for sharing the ASL interpreter feed on its website, although we encourage CBS News in the future to include this ASL interpreter feed as a part of the screen (such as a PIP) with the address rather than a separate video of the ASL interpreter feed on its own. Additionally, not everyone has access to high speed internet, which is why we encourage all TV networks to make ASL interpreter feed available via TV broadcast. We urge all TV network stations to do the right thing and provide access to the ASL interpreter feed in the broadcast.

If you are deaf or hard of hearing and have a complaint about access, please contact your local TV station and share your feedback. 

Stop Asian Hate

News from - April 8, 2021 - 8:29am

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been stories and reports about increasing instances of violence, xenophobia, and bigotry targeting our Deaf and Hard of Hearing Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community in various cities across our country. The NAD Board and staff recognize hate against AAPI have been around for too long and continues to be unacceptably embedded in our communities. This atrocious hate has been much more apparent since the beginning of this pandemic, as more cases have been reported nationwide. The NAD does not tolerate hate against AAPI in any way, shape, or form, whether it be signed or spoken, verbal or physical. The bystander effect is just as harmful as being the one inflicting harm and is not acceptable anywhere in any community, including within the deaf and hard of hearing community. We are living through a tumultuous time in our society. Let’s ask ourselves what we can do to bring about effective change and support our Deaf and Hard of Hearing AAPI community and other communities that are underrepresented and facing oppression. To learn more about what you can do to help stop Asian hate, you can reach out to a local Deaf Asian organization including Asian Signers, National Asian Deaf Congress, and any of its affiliates. The NAD promotes, preserves, and protects civil, human, and linguistic rights for all deaf people, including our AAPI community members.  #StopAsianHate #StopAAPIHate

Thank You Tawny

News from - March 22, 2021 - 9:15am

Earlier this year, Tawny Holmes Hlibok, NAD Education Policy Counsel, wrapped up her duties at the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) to focus on teaching full-time at Gallaudet University. Tawny’s tenure at the NAD first started in 2006, in several volunteer capacities. In 2012, while in law school, Tawny was appointed to the NAD Board with a focus on deaf education. In 2013, as she finished law school, Tawny became an Equal Justice Works Fellow and through its program, was able to join the NAD Law and Advocacy Center as a staff attorney. Even after the fellowship was completed, she remained with the NAD as the Education Policy Counsel. While we will miss Tawny’s radiant energy in the NAD Headquarters, we know we will continue to collaborate with her as her passion clearly lies in the future of deaf children.

”Tawny Holmes Hlibok has contributed greatly to the advancement of deaf education through her work at the NAD including the creation of the Education Advocates in all 50 states. We know that Tawny will continue to promote deaf education throughout her career, and express gratitude for her contributions to date,” said Howard A. Rosenblum, NAD CEO.

Our work remains — the NAD is looking forward to welcoming a new Education Policy Expert to take on the reins and continue the important work for deaf children. We welcome interested and qualified applicants to consider applying for the Education Policy position. 

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD), as the nation’s premier organization safeguarding the civil, human, and linguistic of deaf and hard of hearing Americans, invites applications for a part-time or full-time Education Policy position within the NAD Policy Institute. This position will involve developing and advancing the best education policies on behalf of deaf and hard of hearing youth in the U.S. Attorneys, as well as non-attorney policy experts, are invited to apply for this position.

The mission of the NAD Policy Institute is to represent the NAD in advancing improvements in legislation, regulations, and policies across a broad range of civil rights and discrimination issues including education, early intervention, employment, healthcare, rehabilitation, technology, telecommunications as well as access to public entities and accommodations. 

If you have any questions about the opportunity, please email


The NAD was established in 1880 by deaf leaders who believed in the right of the American deaf community to use sign language, to congregate on issues important to them, and to have its interests represented at the national level. As a nonprofit federation, the mission of the NAD is to preserve, protect, and promote the civil, human, and linguistic rights of deaf and hard of hearing people in the United States. The advocacy scope of the NAD is broad, covering the breadth of a lifetime and impacting future generations in the areas of early intervention, education, employment, health care, technology, telecommunications, youth leadership, and more.

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Apply for a Position at the NAD

News from - March 16, 2021 - 11:30am
[IMAGE: Blue filter overlay of the NAD Headquarters lobby with NAD logo on display in background.
White text “WORK AT THE NAD” appears in big bold text in the center.]

The National Association of the Deaf welcomes interested and qualified applicants to consider submitting their interest for the two vacancies below. If you have any questions about either opportunities, please email

President Updates — February 2021

News from - March 4, 2021 - 1:21pm
[English and Spanish transcript available at the end of this page]

President Melissa gives an update on the five priorities, how to support Deaf Texans, Black History month is 24/7, and National Deaf Youth Day.

MELISSA: Hi, I’m Melissa and I have a few updates this month. The first update is regarding the five new NAD priorities. We had our first Board meeting in January, last month, and spent the entire month of February getting started on those priorities. Our committees spent time reviewing the priorities and discussing their plan of action. I’m excited about our progress and will be sharing updates as they come.

Second, Texas experienced a very difficult and unexpected winter storm a few weeks ago. People had no power and no water for almost a week, depending on where they lived. A local organization, Access 2 Activism, was brought to our attention for their action during the storm. They are supporting deaf and hard of hearing community members with food, supplies, and whatever else people needed. Their organization’s goal is to help those in need. Access to Activism and the Texas Association of the Deaf (TAD) are working closely together during this time. For more information and how to donate, check the NAD’s post on Facebook and Instagram. I encourage you to donate any amount, small or large. As of today, some people in Texas still need support.

Third, as you may know, February is Black History month. There were many great webinars with fantastic panelists and many different learning opportunities for everyone. I’ve appreciated participating in these opportunities. And actually, one person mentioned something that struck a chord in me and I would like to share that comment with you — Black History isn’t only limited to one month, it should be an act of learning and celebration everyday in schools, non-profit organizations, and corporations. Learning and celebrating everyday will help dismantle racism. The person who shared that comment is Black and said, “I’m Black 24/7 — not just in February. We should celebrate Black History throughout the year, past February.” We need to remember that.

And finally, I’m excited about National Deaf Youth Day! This year we’re hosting an event on Friday, March 5th. Several Deaf schools and many employers are participating in the NAD’s virtual mock interviews. This is a great opportunity for deaf high school students. If you know someone who is participating on Friday, tell them good luck! Thank you for watching.

MELISSA: Hola, soy Melissa y tengo algunas actualizaciones este mes.

La primera actualización se refiere a las cinco nuevas prioridades de la NAD. Tuvimos nuestra primera reunión de la Junta en enero, el mes pasado y pasamos todo el mes de febrero comenzando con esas prioridades. Nuestros comités pasaron tiempo revisando las prioridades y discutiendo su plan de acción. Estoy entusiasmada con nuestro progreso y compartiré actualizaciones a medida que se presenten.

En segundo lugar, Texas experimentó un invierno muy difícil e inesperado hace unas semanas. La gente no tuvo luz ni agua durante casi una semana, según el lugar donde vivieran. Se nos llamó la atención sobre una organización local, Access 2 Activism, por su acción durante la tormenta. Están apoyando a los miembros de la comunidad sordos y hipoacúsicos con alimentos, suministros y cualquier otra cosa que las personas necesiten. El objetivo de su organización es ayudar a los necesitados. Access 2 Activism y la Asociación de Sordos de Texas (TAD) están trabajando en estrecha colaboración durante este tiempo. Para obtener más información y cómo donar, consulte la publicación de la NAD en Facebook e Instagram. Los animo a donar cualquier cantidad, pequeña o grande. Hoy, algunas personas en Texas todavía necesitan apoyo.

En tercer lugar, como sabrá, febrero es el mes de la Historia Negra. Hubo muchos seminarios web excelentes con panelistas fantásticos y muchas oportunidades de aprendizaje diferentes para todos. Aprecio participar en estas oportunidades. Y, de hecho, una persona mencionó algo que me tocó y me gustaría compartir ese comentario con ustedes: la Historia Negra no solo se limita a un mes, debe ser un acto de aprendizaje y celebración todos los días en las escuelas, las organizaciones sin fines de lucro y corporaciones. Aprender y celebrar todos los días ayudará a desmantelar el racismo. La persona que compartió ese comentario dijo: “Soy negro 24 horas al día, 7 días a la semana, no solo en febrero. Deberíamos celebrar la Historia Negra durante todo el año, más allá de febrero”. Necesitamos recordar eso.

¡Y finalmente, estoy emocionada por el Día Nacional de la Juventud Sorda! Este año organizaremos un evento el viernes 5 de marzo. Varias escuelas para sordos y muchos empleadores están participando en las entrevistas simuladas virtuales de la NAD. Esta es una gran oportunidad para los estudiantes sordos de la escuela secundaria. Si conoces a alguien que participará el viernes, ¡dile buena suerte! Gracias por ver.

June 24, 2021 - 6:02pm

June 24, 2021 - 6:02pm