Deaf is a term denoting a partial or total lack of hearing. It may be present at birth (congenital) or may be acquired at any age thereafter. A person who cannot detect sound at an amplitude of 20 decibels in a frequency range of from 800 to 1,800 vibrations per second is said to be hard of hearing. The ear normally perceives sounds in the range of 20 to 20,000 vibrations per second.
Educational and employment opportunities for the deaf have improved since passage of legislation in 1973 that prohibited discrimination against the handicapped by any institution receiving federal money and of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. Many states have laws authorizing certain agencies to maintain and develop workshops for training and employing deaf and other handicapped persons.
Federal laws prohibit discrimination against deaf persons' access to the legal system. Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires state and local courts, among other public entities, to provide deaf persons with equal access to their services. The courts are required to “take appropriate steps to ensure that communications with applicants, participants, and members of the public with disabilities are as effective as communications with others.” Further, public entities must “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.” These auxiliary aids and services include the provision of “qualified interpreters, notetakers, computer-aided transcription services, written materials,... or other effective methods of making aurally delivered materials available to individuals with hearing impairments.” The requests of the individual with disabilities must be given top priority in determining the manner of aid. Deaf and hard of hearing people may not be charged for the costs of such auxiliary aids or services.