Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson) encourages awareness of the needs of the deaf and hard of hearing community in recognition of International Deaf Awareness Week.
He proposed legislation aimed at improving the lives of New Jersey residents who are deaf and hard of hearing.
“We can always do more to support New Jersey’s deaf and hearing-impaired residents,” Chiaravalloti said. “International Deaf Awareness Week is the perfect time to begin the conversation on how we can help.”
Chiaravalloti represents the 31st Legislative District, which encompasses Bayonne and parts of Jersey City.
September 20 through 26 was International Deaf Awareness Week, which aims to increase public awareness of deaf issues, people, and culture. Activities and events encourage individuals to educate each other on the needs of the deaf and hearing-impaired population.
According to the New Jersey Department of Human Services, about 850,000 New Jersey residents have varying degrees of hearing loss ranging from mild to profound. This includes individuals who are born deaf and people who experience late-stage hearing loss.
“Residents who are deaf or hard of hearing face a unique set of challenges on a daily basis,” Chiaravalloti said. “Health care accessibility and access to other resources are critically important to their livelihood. Raising awareness of how to communicate and understand residents with a hearing impairment will help improve their day-to-day interactions.”
The first bill (A-856) would require Medicaid coverage for hearing aids and other devices, under certain circumstances.
The second bill (A-870) would require the Director of the Division of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in the Department of Human Services to evaluate and report on the interactions between law enforcement and individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The third bill (AR-35) would encourage law enforcement agencies to continue to provide training to officers on how to approach individuals who are hearing impaired.
Interacting with law enforcement
Chiaravalloti notes that individuals who are deaf or hearing impaired face increased stress when interacting with law enforcement officers given the communication barriers.
“The New Jersey Police Training Commission currently mandates basic training courses for officers on how to interact with individuals with special needs, including individuals who are hearing impaired,” Chiaravalloti said.
According to Chiaravalloti, a more comprehensive training program, focused exclusively on how to approach individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing could help overcome the communication barriers between law enforcement officers and the deaf community.
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