FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE THURSDAY, APRIL 9, 1998

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PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, MARYLAND TO AGREE TO GIVE DEAF VOLUNTEERS

A CHANCE TO BE EMERGENCY MEDICAL TECHNICIANS, UNDER AGREEMENT

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Prince George's County, Maryland, will provide applicants with disabilities an equal opportunity to volunteer as emergency medical technicians, under an agreement reached today with the Justice Department. Today's agreement resolves complaints filed with the Justice Department charging that the Prince George's County Police and Fire Department violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The complaints alleged the Department refused to certify two qualified applicants with hearing impairments. "There's no reason to automatically exclude all persons who are deaf or hard of hearing from volunteering as Emergency Medical Technicians," said Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Bill Lann Lee. "Hearing loss does not render a person categorically incapable of performing on the job." Under the terms of the agreement, the county will: no longer automatically reject applicants to be volunteer fire fighters or rescue technicians solely on the basis of disability;

evaluate, on an individual basis, every applicant's ability to perform the essential functions of the position;

train all personnel who participate in making volunteer application decisions as well as medical personnel hired to evaluate applicants; and

offer to reevaluate the complainants' application for active membership.

Audrey Hill, who is deaf, and Susan Boswell-Maier, who is hard of hearing, filed complaints in 1993, alleging that the county refused to accept them for active membership as EMTs, in violation of the ADA. The complaints alleged that when the women applied to be EMTs the county informed them of its policy of not certifying individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, respectively.

The Department reached a similar agreement requiring the city of Nashville to change its hiring policies after it denied a qualified paramedic a job because he was partially deaf. "Many EMTs and paramedics who are deaf or hard of hearing, perform their professional duties successfully every day," Mr. Lee added. "Job performance is not determined by whether an individual has a physical disability." Under Title II of the ADA, public entities, including county fire departments, are prohibited from discriminating against qualified individuals on the basis of their disabilities. Counties are required to ensure that qualified persons who are deaf or hard of hearing have an equal opportunity to benefit from the counties' programs and services, including participation as volunteer EMTs or firefighters. Attorney General Janet Reno has launched a public education campaign to educate Americans about their rights and obligations under the law. As part of the campaign, President Clinton participated in a public service announcement that aired on hundreds of radio stations across the country. If you are interested in learning more about the ADA or you have questions about how to prevent discrimination on the basis of disability, contact the Department of Justice Technical Assistance Line at:(800) 514-0301; (800) 514-0383 (TTY), or go to the DOJ Internet Homepage at: http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/adahom1.htm. # # #

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