Purple marks Disability Rights

Image courtesy of #WeThe15

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

On August 19, more than 125 monuments around the world were bathed in purple light to recognize the worlds’ 1.2 billion people living with disabilities. This article from NPR states that at least 15% of the world’s population is living with a disability.

One wonders if those with hearing loss, an invisible disability listed in the Americans with Disabilities Act in the U.S., are included in this number. There are ADA protections for the congenitally deaf and those with profound hearing loss, but nothing protecting the disability rights of those with mild to moderate to severe hearing loss.

As I stated at the Acoustical Society of America meeting in New Orleans in December 2017, for those of us with hearing loss, tinnitus, and hyperacusis, ambient noise in public spaces, especially restaurants, is a disability rights issue.

Modifications in the built environment to help those with hearing loss will help everyone, the same way that modifications in the built environment to help those with mobility issues help everyone.

Curb cuts and wheelchair ramps and doors that open automatically when someone approaches don’t just help people in wheelchairs. They help delivery workers, parents pushing babies in strollers, repair workers with wheeled equipment, even those like me with gimpy knees after decades of running.

Similarly, a quieter world will help parents trying to understand what their children are saying, friends meeting for lunch to catch up on gossip, and lovers trying to whisper sweet nothings to each other without sharing their thoughts with the world.

A quieter world will be a better world for all, including those with or without disabilities.

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