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WASHINGTON - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today it is launching a new service that will enable individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing whose primary language is American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate directly with agency staff about issues of discrimination they may be facing. EEOC information intake representatives who are fluent in ASL will be available to answer questions and guide callers through the process of filing a charge of discrimination using videophones.
Previously, individuals who were deaf and or hard of hearing relied on an interpreter using relay services when they contacted EEOC. This new system provides direct access to an EEOC employee who can answer the caller's question in ASL over a videophone.
EEOC is only the third federal agency-after the Federal Communications Commission and the Small Business Administration-to provide this direct access to the public.
"EEOC is proud to strengthen our service to the deaf and hard of hearing community and provide a more effective way for individuals to connect with our agency," said EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang. "This enhanced means of communication helps to ensure that all individuals have access to EEOC resources on employment rights and responsibilities."
Carrie St. Cyr, one of the ASL information intake representatives who will answer the videophones, said, "About 98 percent of people who are deaf and hard of hearing use videophones. Now, when those individuals call EEOC, they will now be able to communicate face to face with a staff member who speaks their native language and whose gestures, body language, and expressions they can read easily."
Deaf and of hard of hearing callers can access the toll free ASL direct video line at 844-234-5122, between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.
EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available at www.eeoc.gov.