Lydia Callis wanted to get her mother a gym membership for Christmas last year. When she called to arrange a consultation, she mentioned that her mom (who lives in Arizona) is deaf and would need a sign-language interpreter for the session. The health club said it would not provide a signer. Ms. Callis — who became an Internet sensation during Hurricane Sandy as Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s exuberant sign-language interpreter — told the club that it was actually required by law to do so. Still it refused, and Ms. Callis, who was calling from Manhattan, gave up.
Last year was the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, and yet this kind of scenario plays out regularly for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. While the broader culture has become accustomed to certain changes the law has engendered, particularly wheelchair access, the rights of the deaf have frequently been misunderstood or simply disregarded.