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E-Michigan Deaf and Hard of Hearing People.

Civil Rights

The rights of people who are deaf or hard of hearing are protected under several pieces of legislation. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), is probably most well known. This Federal legislation expands on the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which addresses federal programs, post-secondary education, and vocational rehabilitation services. Michigan's Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act (Public Act 220 of 1976) has gone beyond the requirements of the ADA in requiring equal access for all people with disabilities in the state. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) addresses educational access and dovetails with the Rehabilitation Act. Additional Michigan laws address access to interpreters, hearing dogs, telecommunications, and more.

Below is a synopsis of the ADA and the Michigan Civil Rights Act as they pertain to people who are deaf or hard of hearing. To read copies of the State and Federal laws related to people who are deaf or hard of hearing see the Division on Deaf and Hard of Hearing website

To learn more, click the Index title below or browse this page.

Rights of Deaf And Hard of Hearing Persons Under the ADA

The ADA covers five major areas for citizens who are deaf or hard of hearing. These are mirrored in the Michigan legislation with stricter requirements for compliance in some areas. PA 220 also includes specific provisions for housing.

The five major areas of the ADA are:

  • Telecommunications
  • State and Local Government, Courts, Attorneys
  • Public Accommodations, Stores, Businesses
  • Medical Treatment
  • Employment

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Michigan Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act (PA 220) prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities, including deaf and hard of hearing persons. PA 220 is “an act to define the civil rights of persons with disabilities; to prohibit discriminatory practices, policies, and customs in the exercise of those rights; to prescribe penalties and to provide remedies; and to provide for the promulgation [formal public announcement] of rules.” The goal of both of these pieces of legislation is full and equal utilization and access to employment, businesses, communication, housing, and service providers for people with disabilities, which includes people with hearing loss.


In Michigan, the phone company provides a means to use the phone system with TTYs for local and long distance calls. A caller dials 711 to reach the Michigan Relay Center (MRC), where a trained telephone relay representative reads what the TTY user types and types what the voice telephone user speaks. The MRC is capable of handling a variety of call types and services such as Voice Carry Over (VCO), Hearing Carry Over (HCO), Spanish–to–Spanish, Speech–to–Speech, etc. The 711 service is available nationwide. The MRC is open 24 hours a day; all telephone relay calls are confidential and the MRC representative must not divulge what he or she hears. In addition, the phone company cannot charge more for TTY calls than for voice calls. To make a TTY relay call dial 711 or (800) 649–3777. For more information on the Michigan Relay Center, and the types of relay calls available, see their website

State and Local Government, Courts, Attorneys

State and Local government includes a long list of agencies and services in addition to government offices and courts. Some of these are social service agencies, jails, police/fire, school systems, public swimming pools, municipal golf courses, civic arenas, lottery bureaus, and zoos. People who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing should have equal access to these services and agencies with interpreters or hearing assistive devices provided by the government when necessary. The Federal Government must comply with similar requirements under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Michigan has taken an additional step towards insuring access by passing the Deaf Person’s Interpreter Act, Public Act 204 of 1982. This law specifies that a deaf person has a right to an interpreter when arrested, and that any statement made before an interpreter is present is not admissible in court. The law further states:

“Sec. 3. (1) In any action before a court or a grand jury where a deaf person is a participant in the action, either as a plaintiff, defendant, or witness, the court shall appoint a certified interpreter or in its discretion, appoint a qualified interpreter, to interpret the proceedings to the deaf person, to interpret the deaf person’s testimony or statements, and to assist in preparation of the action with the deaf person’s counsel.” (393.503, Sec 3 (1).)

Hearing Accessible Court Systems: This document lists resources to assist courts and other legal organizations with providing accommodations to people with hearing loss. Click here.

Public Accommodations

Stores, businesses, hotels, theaters, restaurants, retail stores, banks, museums, parks, libraries, and private schools are all required to provide auxiliary aids and services for communicating with people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. Public accommodations or businesses like hotels must provide TTYs and amplified phones when phones are available for the general public. At least one TTY should be installed in shopping malls, hospital waiting rooms, stadiums, convention centers, airports, or any building with more than four pay telephones.

Medical Treatment

Hospitals that receive money from the U.S. government must provide equal services to Deaf and Hard of Hearing persons. Hospitals must assure both Deaf and Hard of Hearing persons can communicate with doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff.

For more information on laws related to health care and people with hearing loss click here.


The ADA says employers cannot discriminate in the job application process, hiring, firing, salary/pay, promotion, or any other benefit. Michigan’s PA 220 goes even further by defining an employer as:

“a person who has 1 or more employees or a person who as contractor or subcontractor is furnishing material or performing work for the state or a governmental entity or agency of the state and includes an agent of such a person.” (Article 2, 37.1201 Sec. 201.)

Accommodations are required to allow a deaf or hard of hearing person equal access to information and safety. It is the responsibility of the Deaf or Hard of Hearing person to be able to perform the primary functions of the job. For tips about the job search and your rights under ADA see the Job Accommodation Network.

For assistance related to maintaining or obtaining employment, the Rehabilitation Act mandates that each state operate a vocational rehabilitation program. Michigan Rehabilitation Services is the designated agency in Michigan.

Know your responsibilities!

If you need an accommodation to perform your job or to participate in an event or service, consider the following:

  • You must formally request an accommodation. If you don’t request an accommodation, there is no requirement to provide it.

  • Consider the amount of time required to make arrangements and give adequate notice to providers.

  • Requests for employment accommodations must be in writing.

  • If you have requested an accommodation for an event or appointment and are unable to attend, it is important to notify the provider as soon as possible. This will avoid unnecessary charges and go a long way towards maintaining good will.

For more information on your rights and responsibilities regarding accommodations, and for help with writing an Accommodation Request see the Job Accommodation Network.

Filing Complaints

  • Employment related complaints may be filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 180 days. (202) 663–4900 (Voice); (800) 800–3302 (TTY)

  • For information on civil rights contact the Michigan Division on Deaf and Hard of Hearing, FIA, (517) 335–6004 (V/TTY), (877) 499–6232 (V/TTY toll–free), (517) 335-7773 FAX or E–mail:, or the Michigan Association for Deaf and Hard of Hearing, (800) YOUR–EAR (V/TTY) or E–mail:

  • If you have been denied services, file complaints with the Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice. (202) 514–0301 (Voice); (202) 514–0381 (TTY)

Court Access

Click here to view article about Deaf attorney fighting for Court Access

Additional Resources

List of Federal Laws Providing Rights to Individuals with Hearing Loss

Federal Disability Law in a Nutshell
(Nutshell Series)

by Bonnie Poitras Tucker

Legal Rights: The Guide for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People

by National Association of the Deaf (Paperback)

Wrightslaw: Special Education Law

by Peter W. D. Wright, Pamela Darr Wright; Paperback

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