Advancing Education Policy, Access to Movies and Hearing Technology


Advocacy in Action

Advancing Education Policy, Access to Movies and Hearing Technology


AG Bell ensures that the needs of children and adults who use listening and spoken language are represented as public policy is shaped through participation in national coalitions representing consumers and professionals in the hearing health and education arenas and by raising awareness of listening and spoken language with congressional representatives and their staff.

AG Bell advocated on a number of key issues that have made a difference for children and adults with hearing loss by providing greater access to movie theater captioning, school-based accommodations, and hearing technology. AG Bell also is laying the groundwork for the shape of the future of federal education legislation.

Movie Captioning Rules

AG Bell, in collaboration with other organizations representing consumers with hearing loss and movie theater owners, announced an historic agreement in December 2014 to file joint recommendations on rulemaking for movie theater access. 

From left to right: John Fithian, president and CEO of National Association of Theatre Owners; John Stanton, chair of AG Bell Public Affairs Council; Anna Gilmore Hall, executive director of Hearing Loss Association of America; Andrew Phillips, policy counsel at the National Association of the Deaf; I. King Jordan, eighth president of Gallaudet University; Randy Smith, CEO and counsel for Regal Entertainment Group.

Correction: The original photo caption inadvertently omitted I. King Jordan and misidentified Randy Smith.

In response to a U.S. Department of Justice Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) the organizations filed Joint Recommendations on Movie Captioning and Audio Description. The comments were filed by the following organizations: AG Bell, Association of Late Deafened Adults (ALDA), the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), and the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO).

Following several weeks of discussions, the five organizations agreed on a set of recommendations, including: 

  • Installation of closed captioning (CC) and audio description (AD) technologies in all digital movie theater auditoriums nationwide.
  • Specific minimum closed captioning device requirements with a monitoring requirement. This flexible, market-responsive device scoping method will ensure access for all deaf and hard of hearing patrons and respond to actual consumer demand.
  • Reasonable compliance timelines for delivery and installation of CC and AD systems.

A joint news conference at the National Press Club on the movie theater captioning agreement resulted in extensive coverage in major media, including the LA Times, New York Times, movie theater industry media, local media and local organizations serving people with hearing loss and blogs.

This historic collaboration got the attention of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), which explored in its "Money and Business" column how organizations that were former adversaries became allies in giving consumers greater access to captioning in movie theaters, setting a precedent for other associations representing consumers and industry. Read the interview with John Stanton, Esq., chair of the AG Bell Public Affairs Council, and find out how AG Bell advocates on your behalf. Visit ListeningandSpokenLanguage.org/PR.MovieCaptioning/ to learn more.

Position Statement on IDEA Reauthorization

AG Bell is pleased to announce the release of its position statement on the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The position statement expresses AG Bell’s support for the reauthorization of IDEA and supports changes to the IDEA to better meet the needs of children with hearing loss particularly those children whose chosen communication mode is listening and spoken language.

Specifically, the position statement calls for insertion of language into the IDEA that:

• Ensures informed choice of communication mode;
• Improves the coordination between Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) and Early Intervention (EI);
• Ensures that the communication mode of listening and spoken language is adequately supported.

Visit ListeningandSpokenLanguage.org/reauthorization.individuals.idea/ to read the full position statement.

Bone-anchored Implants

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final rule on Oct. 31, 2014 that preserves Medicare coverage for bone-anchored hearing devices, which include osseointegrated implants. Earlier in 2014, a proposed new rule aimed at reclassifying the implants from a prosthetic device to a hearing aid. This would have effectively ended Medicare reimbursement because hearing aids are not covered under Medicare.

AG Bell advocated vigorously for preserving coverage through a sign-on letter as part of the ITEM Coalition (Independence Through Enhancement of Medicare and Medicaid). The October 31 agency rule clearly distinguished these implants from hearing aids. This means that thousands of people who do not benefit from hearing aids and people who need to replace or update their bone-anchored implant will continue to be able to do so under Medicare. The final rule was published in the November 6 issue of the Federal Register.

Guidance to Schools on Accommodations

The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education released guidance on Nov. 12, 2014 to remind schools of their responsibility to provide communication access for students with hearing, vision and speech disabilities. The guidance highlighted schools’ responsibilities under three different laws: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (Title II), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Schools must give “primary consideration to students and parents” in determining supports that are needed to ensure effective communication, and these supports can include communication access realtime translation (CART).

The guidance comes with a document entitled “Frequently Asked Questions on Effective Communication for Students with Hearing, Vision, or Speech Disabilities in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools,” which addresses the interplay between IDEA and ADA Title II requirements and explains the responsibility of public schools to ensure that communication with students with hearing, vision, or speech disabilities is as effective as communication with all other students. Visit ListeningandSpokenLanguage.org/Guidance.Schools.Accomodations/ to read more and access these important documents.

Source: Volta Voices (2015): Volume 22, Issue 1.