Deaf people often struggle in life. My wife spent a few years teaching college classes at a facility for the hearing impaired and shared with me many of the difficulties students encountered. I learned from the deaf students I had an opportunity to teach in a physical classroom setting that simple accommodations like facing the class when I spoke helped the lip readers tremendously.
Absent personal exposure, I would think most Americans really never get to appreciate the full impact of hearing loss suffered by many of our citizens. However, I am guessing that once enlightened, most of us would be more than willing to allow for reasonable accommodations.
In 2005, a government study revealed virtually no affordable housing for deaf or deaf-blind senior citizens in the United States. I would hope that most Americans would favor doing something to remedy that situation.
Now, we know all about our government's issues with the State of Arizona and immigration laws, but that is political ideological squabbling, having nothing at all to do with the hearing-impaired. Government and the people do work together. For example, Arizona took the federal study on the deaf to heart. In 2008, the state received the approval from HUD to construct an apartment complex "designed for seniors who are deaf, hard of hearing and deaf blind." In fact, HUD helped to finance the project, and the complex is currently 90% occupied by deaf and deaf-blind senior citizens.
Personally, I think it is a wonderful use of taxpayer dollars. The residents are now safer with flashing lights to warn of fires, video phones, and visual markings to alert the hearing impaired when necessary. One resident stated, "It's nice to have a life that's equivalent to other people that are not deaf." A great government success story, right? Wrong.
HUD has announced that Arizona is in violation of the law because the complex shows a preference for the hearing-impaired. According to the HUD memo, "A preference or priority based on a particular diagnosis or disability and excluding others with different disabilities is explicitly prohibited by HUD's Section 504 regulations." The government is threatening to cancel all federal housing funding to Arizona, unless the complex severely limits the number of deaf residents.
I would be happy if this were the saddest story of government control over the lives of its citizens, but we all know it is not. On paper dating back to Rousseau, a theoretical free liberal government set up to protect the people is a brilliant human innovation. However, when Big Brother sends out regulators to measure our soft drinks and examine our burgers, that protection begins to crumble. With all the federal laws passed to protect citizens with disabilities, it is hard to believe that running the risk of hearing-impaired Americans being injured or dying because of insufficient housing availability in the United States is acceptable. They appear to be collateral damage of Big Government.
We need some federal regulation to protect those among us who need it. However, in my humble opinion, we have thousands of federal regulators who should goose-step their way to the nearest library to research human history.
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