Opening the Door to Deaf Officers

? Legislation drafted by Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) would create a demonstration program “to assess the feasibility and advisability” of permitting those with auditory impairments, including deafness, to access as Air Force officers. “Over the past few decades, the armed forces have given groups who were previously excluded the opportunity to serve,” wrote Takano in a statement. “The time has come for the armed forces to do the same for individuals with auditory impairments, as many are fully qualified model cadets,” he stated. Currently, the Defense Department’s medical standards for enlistment have requirements for hearing levels that would exclude deaf persons as well as those with hearing aids or cochlear implants, according to the statement. The demonstration would enable 15 to 20 deaf and hearing-impaired individuals, who meet the other accession qualifications, to attend the Basic Officer Training course or the Commissioned Officer Training course at Maxwell AFB, Ala. The Air Force would later report to Congress on the program’s outcome, including recommendations “to increase further inclusion of individuals with auditory disabilities serving as officers in the Air Force or other armed forces.” Takano introduced the bill, HR 5296, at the end of July.