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New American Sign Language video series promotes grasp of civil rights

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - 12/5/2023

Dec. 5—The Hawaii Civil Rights Commission and the Disability and Communication Access Board have announced the release of a new video series that covers basic civil rights in American Sign Language.

The Hawaii Civil Rights Commission and the Disability and Communication Access Board have announced the release of a new video series that covers basic civil rights in American Sign Language.

The videos were created in response to DCAB and community advocates' requests to expand access to information for those whose first language is ASL, according to an HCRC news release.

"It's a very effective way of getting information access to them, " said DCAB Executive Director Kirby Shaw. "Deaf individuals who rely on ASL as their primary mode of communication may not have understood their rights and thereby, they fail to file a complaint when their rights are violated."

The series includes five videos that cover individual rights, communication access discrimination, employment discrimination, housing discrimination and the complaint filing process in the event of a discrimination incident. The topics are sweeping and meant to cover need-to-know principles under the Americans With Disabilities Act so that people understand both their rights and what to do when they are being denied, Shaw said.

HCRC Chief Counsel Constance Yonashiro said the HCRC office hears complaints from the deaf community describing situations of discrimination or lack of public accommodations.

Many have reported experiencing these situations in places such as doctors' offices, where staff aren't aware that they are required to provide ASL interpreters for free to those in need of translation serv ­ices, Yonashiro said. Some offices even request that those in need of ASL interpretation bring their children in to help, a suggestion that is also inappropriate, she said.

Communication barriers such as lack of ASL interpreters also can deter Eng ­lish as Second Language people from certain communities or services altogether, said former HCRC Chief Counsel Robin Wurtzel in an email to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Wurtzel worked as chief counsel throughout the majority of the video series' production before retiring in August.

However, Yonashiro pointed out that despite the inequality that the absence of ASL services promotes, the fact is that many people are simply unaware of the laws surrounding it.

"Many people just don't know what the law is, " Yona ­shiro said. "We're hoping that this project increases awareness and also informs people of their rights. ... We feel like information is power, and we would like to empower those people who may have had less of a voice in our communities, " Yona ­shiro said.

The video series can be accessed on DCAB's website at or on HCRC's website. Basic civil rights videos on the HCRC website are also available in Eng ­lish, Chuukese, Marshal ­lese, Ilocano, Tagalog and Hawaiian, according to the HCRC news release.------Linsey Dower covers ethnic and cultural affairs and is a corps member of Report for America, a national service organization that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues and communities.

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