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Taking Matters Into Their Own Hands (cont.) By Amanda Morris – npr.org/2019/01/13/673250200/deaf-and-unemployed-taking-matters-into-their-own-hands

Rather than creating their own “deaf ecosystems,” some deaf employees and organizations are pushing employers and their industries for better accommodations. Some jobs – like driving a passenger bus, screening for TSA, and flying commercial planes – still require hearing ability. But deaf employees say those requirements are, in some cases, based on outdated stereotypes, not the actual ability to do the job. Deaf pilot Jackson Busenbark is only allowed to fly small, private airplanes. He doesn’t have a first-class medical certificate, as required by the Federal Aviation Administration, to fly larger jets and make a living as an airline pilot. Under FAA regulations, he can’t get one because larger airports and airlines rely on radio communication. However, Busenbark and other pilots in the Deaf Pilots Association, numbering over 200, argue that the FAA’s multibillion-dollar effort to modernize U.S. airspace, dubbed NextGen, will eliminate the need for radio communication. Under NextGen, flights will be satellite and GPS based, using data communication such as texting to supplement voice communication. Texting would actually be safer than voice communication, especially as flights grow increasingly global and numerous, Busenbark believes.

“Radio communication has its disadvantages. People tend to have misunderstandings all the time,” he said. “Accents can be a problem for communication, and when two pilots try to contact the tower at the same time, it messes with the transmission, so critical information can be misheard, resulting in death.”

“There’s a paternalistic view of deaf people where they think that because deaf people can’t hear, it’s dangerous,” he said. “But there’s this thing called deaf gain — a concept that deaf people have an advantage that hearing people don’t. Studies show that we have a better response time to visual stimuli.”

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