Steve Weiner brought up some concerns to the Deaf community in regard to the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MCDHH) violating accessibility laws. Weiner’s vlog says that for years, the MCDHH has provided information for the Deaf community through American Sign Language (ASL) and according to regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, they have to provide information in ways that are accessible for the Deaf community. The vlogs have stopped since June 25, 2020.
The Section 508 of the General Services Administration (GSA) website states; the federal government is required to provide accessibility to the online environment for all users, including users with disabilities. “We follow specific commonwealth enterprise standards designed to meet the needs of our citizens with disabilities” (GSA website).
There is varying information about two separate laws that enforce the need for their vlogs to return. The Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984 requires states to make registration and voting aids accessible for disabled (deaf) voters. There was another law that he quoted, “The National Voter Registration Act of 1993.” In this law, it requires that state-funded programs that are primarily engaged in providing services to persons with disabilities must provide all program applicants with voter registration forms, to assist them in completing the forms, and to transmit completed forms to the appropriate state officials. Because of these two laws, it is clear that MCDHH is required to provide accessibility tools for the Deaf and Deaf Blind community to learn more about their voting rights especially with changes shifting voting from in-person to online.
Weiner says, “MCDHH has not lived up to its own previously set standards by not posting the VLOGS. We might ask how one would react if the courthouse suddenly removed its ramp and left the people with mobility challenges outside? For a few months, MCDHH was committed to posting ASL vlogs, but has now converted to causing disparity in language access. Wonder what’s happening? Perhaps a question for Atty. Josh Mendelsohn.”
It is believed that ever since Steve A. Florio, the Commissioner for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing went on paid administrative leave, MCDHH’s interest in providing access has dwindled. Florio has been on leave since July 10, 2020, about two weeks after the last documented accessible vlog posted on June 25, 2020.