WASHINGTON — Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside) on March 26 introduced the Keith Nolan Air Force Deaf Demonstration Act, which would allow deaf and hard of hearing individuals to serve in the U.S. Air Force in a demonstration program.
Original co-sponsors include Reps. Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.), John Delaney (D-D-Md.), Ted Lieu (D-Los Angeles), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).
Currently, the Department of Defense sets medical standards for enlistment. Within the “hearing” section, there are requirements for hearing levels that would exclude an individual who is deaf. The section also excludes individuals who currently or historically use a hearing aid, or who have a cochlear implant.
The Keith Nolan Air Force Deaf Demonstration Act would create a demonstration program in the Air Force for 15-20 deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals who would otherwise qualify to serve in the Air Force.
Officer Casey Doane, who grew up in a deaf family and is currently serving as a commissioned officer in the Air Force, believes hearing impaired Americans are capable of serving.
“It is from my direct experience that I can say it is entirely possible for deaf or hard of hearing Americans to serve in the Air Force,” said Doane. “Obviously, certain accommodations and limitations would have to be made, but ultimately no more than for other individuals with unique circumstances who are already serving.
“Growing up in a deaf family I was able to see first-hand the adversity that deaf individuals faced every day. But more importantly, I was able to see the determination and perseverance that is necessary to serve as a leader in the Air Force. In fact, I credit my own determination to those experiences.”
“Over the past few decades, our military has given groups who were previously excluded the opportunity to serve,” said Takano. “It is time for the Armed Forces to do the same for individuals with auditory impairments, as many are fully qualified model cadets. The demonstration program that this legislation would create would allow 15-20 deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals who would otherwise qualify to serve their country in the Air Force.”
The National Association of the Deaf has endorsed the legislation.