- - Thursday, November 15, 2018

Starbucks saw a window of opportunity and opened a D.C. sign-language store in October.

Last week, D.C. voters elected the city’s first deaf/hearing-impaired members to the Advisory Neighborhood Commission.

A couple of years ago, a Facebook group named DC Deaf Moviegoers began informing deaf/hearing-impaired film lovers on theaters that use open captions.

Each effort proves that some of the people who live and work in the District are re-imagining how people who are deaf or hard of hearing live and work in the District — and it’s about time.

To its credit, the D.C. Council is finally getting around to acknowledge that the deaf and hearing impaired deserve r-e-s-p-e-c-t.

Let’s hope the lawmakers don’t screw up.

See, council member Charles Allen, Ward 6 Democrat and an ambitious do-gooder, proposed legislation for a new layer of bureaucracy called the Office of Deaf and Hard of Hearing. In his words on Twitter, the motive is because “DC needs increased focus & coordination for the city.”

In a separate tweet, he said the agency is needed because “it has become very clear the city’s accessibility for our residents who are deaf and hard of hearing needs improvement.”

It’s understandable that city officials would begin considering legislation to bolster services to our deaf and hard of hearing.

Are 911-to-text services available to the deaf and hearing disabled? Does the city provide sign-language interpretation at council hearings and major press conferences? How about closed and open captioning on the city government’s own access channels?

Would the two incoming members of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission be the only D.C. taxpayer-funded employees who are deaf or hearing impaired?
Why did the council member who chairs the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee propose the bill? Did Vincent Gray, chairman of the Health Committee, and Brianne Nadeau, drop the ball?

Having long lamented that the council is shortsighted on oversight, it’s time again to cite one of the lawmakers’ cancerous flaws: They are laden with lard.
As evidence, I submit a huge mistake by the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education, which includes the D.C. Higher Education Licensure Commission.

The commission’s website provides information on schools and universities that are licensed by the city, such as Carnegie Mellon University and Gallaudet University. (The latter, you may or may not know, is the oldest and only institution of higher learning in the world for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Gallaudet also is bilingual, as it teaches American Sign Language and English). But the council’s and OSSE’s stinging endorsement to voters who elected two deaf candidates is to misinform about which ward Gallaudet is in. OSSE’s website says Ward 7, but Gallaudet is actually in Ward 5.

Oversights happen, and there’s hardly a right-wing conspiracy afoot with my criticism about the red tape.

It’s just that City Hall too often fails to give due diligence to what’s already on its plate because it’s moving so quickly to the next spoonful.

And there in lies a word of caution to supporters of Mr. Allen’s proposal — and it’s fairly simple. Fix what’s wrong first, like providing sign-language interpreters at press conferences and ensuring access channels are accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing. And find a way for those folks to reach 911 services.

Oh, and in the name of accuracy and for the sake of voters, the council and the mayor should make sure OSSE’s licensure info is correct.

The bog of lard needs more than a ladle.

⦁ Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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