The laws herein described comprise only a partial list of laws that may be of assistance. If you need additional information on those below and other laws, please feel free to contact the Commission.

Massachusetts State Laws and Executive Orders

  1. Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts of 1780
  2. Chapter 585 of the Acts and Resolves of 1983 entitled "An Act Relative to the Rights of Deaf Persons and Use of Dogs to Assist Such Persons."
  3. An Act Establishing a Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, 1985
  4. Executive Order 246, Commonwealth of Massachusetts Governor Michael S. Dukakis, 1984.
  5. American Sign Language (ASL)
  6. The Emergency Telecommunications Act of 1990, Chapter 291 (hereinafter referred as "The Act")

Federal Laws

  1. Americans with Disabilities Act
  2. U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  3. U.S. Education For All Handicapped Children Act of 1973
  4. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  5. The Fair Housing Act (FHA), Amendments of 1988
  6. The Telecommunications Act of 1996

Updated
10.21.96


Massachusetts State Laws and Executive Orders

1. Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts of 1780.
The Massachusetts Constitution includes Article 114 (adopted in 1980) prohibiting discrimination against disabled people:

"No otherwise qualified handicapped individual shall, solely by reason of his handicap, be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any program or activity within the Commonwealth."

2. Chapter 585 of the Acts and Resolves of 1983 entitled "An Act Relative to the Rights of Deaf Persons and Use of Dogs to Assist Such Persons."
This law addresses a number of subjects important to deaf persons, including the right of a deaf person to be accompanied by a specially trained hearing guide dog.

Specifically, the law addresses:

  • Discrimination against a deaf person in housing, employment, education, and public places or because such deaf person is accompanied by a hearing guide dog (Annotated at MGL c.151B, §4);
  • Imposes obligations of hearing dog businesses; and
  • Gives deaf persons the right to interpreter services in court and other legal proceedings (Annotated at MGL c.221, §92A).

3. An Act Establishing a Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, 1985 (Massachusetts General Law Chapter 716, Annotated at MGL c.6, §§191-199) which mandates the Commission as the principal agency of the Commonwealth to advocate, and coordinate public policies, regulations, and programs, and improve the quality of existing services and promote the development of new services for deaf and hard of hearing citizens.

4. Executive Order 246
Commonwealth of Massachusetts Governor Michael S. Dukakis, 1984. The Governor ordered that the Executive Branch of the Massachusetts Government adopt a "Code of Fair Practices" that bars discrimination by state agencies on the basis of handicap. Executive Order 246 addresses Affirmative Action in employment, housing, education, public accommodations, medical facilities and state or state assisted services. The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination is charged with overseeing violations of employment, public accommodation and housing discrimination.

5. American Sign Language (ASL) is recognized in 1993 as a full and legitimate language, and as the equivalent of a spoken language for the purposes of foreign language study and course credit (MGL c.15A, §9A). ASL courses in all public elementary and secondary schools may be credited toward satisfaction of foreign language requirements (MGL c.71, §2B).

6. The Emergency Telecommunications Act of 1990, Chapter 291 (hereinafter referred as "The Act"), established a Statewide emergency telecommunications board to coordinate and effect the implementation of Enhanced 911. The Act calls for the local exchange service provider to administer and maintain TDD equipment distribution services to residential subscribers who are certified by the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing to be in need of such TDD equipment, or other specialized, customer-premises equipment which provide access to telephone networks for people with hearing impairments. The Massachusetts Commission for the Blind and the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission certifies residential subscribers for specialized equipment for people with speech, vision or mobility impairments. The Act also establishes a dual party TDD/TTY telephone message relay service to be located within the Commonwealth.

Federal Laws

1. Americans with Disabilities Act (Public Law 101-336) is designed to extend to people with disabilities, civil rights similar to those now available on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, and religion through the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in:

  • private sector employment
  • state and local government programs and services
  • places of public accommodation
  • transportation
  • telecommunication relay services

2.U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended in 1978 (Public Law 93-112). According to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, this Act provides disabled people with a wide variety of rehabilitation services. It is intended to increase employment skills and ability to live independently in the community without discrimination. Title 504 sets out basic civil rights protection as follows:

"No otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States ... shall solely by reason of his handicap, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance or under any program or activity conducted by any Executive Agency or by the United States Postal Service."

3. U.S. Education For All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (Public Law 94142)
According to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights this Act provides for the following with respect to all special needs students as a single group:

  • State responsibility to identify handicapped children
  • Individual Education Program (IEP)
  • Nondiscriminatory testing and evaluation procedures
  • Procedural safeguards permitting parents to challenge an IEP
  • Least Restrictive Environment for the education of children
  • Periodic reviews of IEPs.

4. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 USCS § 1400, et. seq.
(formally the Education for All Handicapped Children Act listed above) encompasses all earlier federal statutes dealing with the education of children with disabilities. The key principles of IDEA are that special education and related services are to be provided to all children with disabilities. The Act also calls for an education to be appropriate and individualized, free, and is to be provided in least restrictive appropriate setting .

Under IDEA, any State educational agencies, any local educational agency, and any intermediate educational unit which receives federal assistance must establish and maintain procedures to assure that children with disabilities and their parents or guardians are guaranteed procedural safeguards with respect to the provision of free appropriate public education by appropriate educational agencies.

The procedural safeguards include the following situations:

  1. Hearings;
  2. Notice of hearings;
  3. Review of local decisions by the State educational agency;
  4. The right to bring civil action in the appropriate State or U.S. District court; and
  5. Remedies.

IDEA also calls for the establishment of State Interagency Coordinating Council to advise and assist a statewide system for appropriate early intervention services to all infants and toddlers with disabilities, as well as a Federal Interagency Coordinating Council. The Federal Interagency Coordinating Councils must ensure the effective coordination of Federal early intervention programs, policies and services across Federal agencies and to identify gaps in Federal agency programs and services.

The MCDHH sits on the executive office of human services bureau of transitional planning and advisory committee for purposes of reviewing and approving transitional plans for disabled students whose entitlement to special education services will end as a result of such disabled student's graduation from high school or attainment of age twenty-two.

5. The Fair Housing Act (FHA), Amendments of 1988, prohibits discrimination against a person with a disability or any person associated with the person with a disability in the sale or rental of housing, including private owners as well as real estate agents and brokers. The FHA makes it illegal to discriminate with respect to the "terms and conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of any dwelling" or with respect to the "provision of services or facilities in connection with such dwelling." The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) enforces the FHA.

6. The Telecommunications Act of 1996, PL 104-104, established a framework for open competition in in the telecommunications market in light of the monopolies now enjoyed by the local telephone companies by eliminating the existing entry barriers to competition. The goal of the Act is to promote competition and reduce regulations in order to lower prices with higher quality services for consumers and to encourage development of new telecommunications technologies. Local telephone companies will now have to negotiate with all telecommunication carrier competitors including cable, wireless and satellite companies to network over sharing its facilities and at what price, based on federal minimum standards.

The new Telecommunications Act has specific provisions to aid people with disabilities in obtaining full access to the "information superhighway." The Act requires telecommunications and customer equipment services be designed, developed, and fabricated to be accessible to the disabled. Providers of telecommunications services must ensure that their services are accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities.

The Act will provide more and better captioning and video description services to people with disabilities. Programming providers or programming owners of video programming must ensure that such programming is fully accessible through the provision of closed captions and imposes deadlines for such provision unless doing so would impose an undue economic hardship.





This information is provided by the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.