On Friday, November 7th
, 2014, four representatives from Deaf in Government (DIG) attended a meeting with three Government Accountability Office (GAO) representatives to discuss issues within the federal government regarding reasonable accommodations.
Some of the issues brought up was lack of central funding within the government, difficulties in requesting reasonable accommodations, difficulties in obtaining Videophone (VP) equipment in the workplace, and interpreting contracts with federal agencies.
DIG proposed that all federal agencies establish central funding, which will reduce the need for each division and/or organization to pay for interpreter services for their deaf/hard of hearing (D/HH) employees. This has often caused divisions to hesitate against hiring more D/HH employees due to the interpreter expenses; however, by having central funding, it means that interpreter expenses do not come out of any organization’s budget.
Another significant issue was having VPs in the workplace as some agencies will not allow them due to security issues. We proposed that there be a standardized policy for all federal agencies when it comes to installing VPsundefinedparticularly for agencies that require high security. By doing this, it will reduce confusion among Information Technology personnel and management when it comes to having VPs within the agency and it will ensure that D/HH employees are given the reasonable accommodations they need to perform their daily job duties.
Another issue DIG discussed was how federal agencies often give interpreter agencies that offer the lowest bid an interpreting contract despite the fact that the interpreting agency does not provide the interpreters that meet the needs or qualification level of the D/HH customer. Therefore, when D/HH employees request interpreters that do not match their level, it affects their job performance since communication becomes a barrier. DIG stated that they want each federal agency to establish a panel made up of their D/HH employees to evaluate each interpreting agency that makes a bid. This way, the panel can determine which interpreting agency has interpreters that match their needs and the needs of their agency and choose the interpreting agency that provides their organization with the best value for its money.
The GAO plans to present all of the issues and proposals discussed in the meeting to Congress. From there, Congress will decide whether or not it will take action on these issues. DIG will continue to follow-up with the GAO representatives on taking action to improve reasonable accommodations for D/HH employees in the federal government.