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Chiaravalloti Highlights September 20-26 International Deaf Awareness Week; Legislation Aiming to Address Concerns of New Jersey Deaf & Hard of Hearing Residents

A sponsor of several bills aimed at improving the lives of New Jersey residents who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson) encourages awareness of the needs of this community during September 20-26 as we recognize International Deaf Awareness Week.

According to the New Jersey Department of Human Services, about 850,000 New Jersey residents have varying degrees of hearing loss ranging from mild to profound. This includes individuals who are born deaf and people who encounter late-stage hearing loss.

“Residents who are deaf or hard of hearing face a unique set of challenges on a daily basis,” said Chiaravalloti. “Health care accessibility and access to other resources are critically important to their livelihood. Raising awareness of how to communicate and understand residents with a hearing impairment will help improve their day-to-day interactions.”

September 20-26 is International Deaf Awareness Week, which aims to increase public awareness of deaf issues, people, and culture. Activities and events encourage individuals to come together as a community to educate each other on the needs of the deaf and hearing-impaired population.

Assembly Chiaravalloti is the sponsor of legislation that would require Medicaid coverage for hearing aids and other assistive devices for hearing impaired under certain circumstances (A-856); require the Director of the Division of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in the Department of Human Services to evaluate and report on the interactions that are occurring between law enforcement and individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing (A-870); and encourage law enforcement agencies to continue to provide training to law enforcement officers on how to approach individuals who are hearing impaired (AR-35).

Chiaravalloti notes that individuals who are deaf or hearing impaired face increased stress when interacting with law enforcement officers given the communication barriers between the two parties.

“Law enforcement agencies around the country have taken steps on how to effectively and appropriately approach individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing,” continued Chiaravalloti.  “The New Jersey Police Training Commission currently mandates basic training courses for officers on how to interact with individuals with special needs, including individuals who are hearing impaired. A more comprehensive training program, focused exclusively on how to approach individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing, could help to overcome the communication barriers between law enforcement officers and Deaf community.

“We can always do more to support New Jersey’s deaf and hearing-impaired residents. International Deaf Awareness Week is the perfect time to begin the conversation on how we can help.”