Ellis Island To Provide Sign Language Interpreters Under
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 2, 2006
NEW YORK, NEW YORK--Deaf or hard of hearing visitors to Ellis Island National Monument have a small group from New Jersey to thank when they tour the facility.
The National Association of the Deaf announced Monday that the U.S. Department of the Interior, which operates the historic landmark, has agreed to changes in order to settle a discrimination complaint filed two years ago on behalf of 40 members of the Senior Deaf Group of the Northwest Bergen Senior Activity Center in Midland Park, New Jersey.
The group was forced to bring a sign language interpreter at its own expense because DOI officials refused to do so. But, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires federal facilities to provide appropriate auxiliary aids, including sign language interpreters, for effective communication with patrons who have hearing-related disabilities.
"It made me mad when Ellis Island refused to provide interpreters," said Rose Pizzo, one of the group's members. "Many of our immigrant parents came to America and went through Ellis Island. I knew the rangers had lots of information to share and they offered tours."
According to an NAD press statement, Ellis Island officials agreed to reimburse the Senior Deaf Group, and to ensure that free interpreter services and other auxiliary aids would be available to future visitors.
Over 12 million immigrants came through the Ellis Island federal immigration station between 1892 and 1954. It has since been restored as a museum. More than 40 percent of Americans can trace their ancestry through Ellis Island.