Project 2025's Plan to Sabotage Deaf Access

Something is about to ruin celebrations for the 34th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Something is trying to swoop in like an uninvited guest and stomp out inclusion and accessibility.

Something is threatening to dismantle years of progress for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community.

That something is Project 2025.

This sweeping initiative, proposed by a coalition of conservative groups, aims to reshape the federal government by slashing regulations and cutting spending. While the project aims to overhaul various aspects of federal regulations, it poses a potential threat to the hard-fought rights and funding of individuals who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing.

While led by conservative efforts, the Republican presidential candidate has officially distanced himself from any involvement with Project 2025 so far. However, Project 2025's staff includes more than 200 officials from the Trump administration. It is unlikely that he has “no idea who is behind” the project as he claims and quite likely that he would implement its extreme ideas regardless of how far out of step they are with the American public.

Communication Access Under Siege

First up, communication. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been a game-changer with all five titles. The ADA mandates that public and private entities provide accommodations like sign language interpreters, real-time captioning, and assistive listening devices for people who are Deaf and hard of hearing.

But Project 2025’s obsession with deregulation threatens to wipe these requirements off the map, leaving Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in the lurch. This includes eliminating the independence of the Department of Justice (DOJ) (Project 2025, Mandate to Leadership, page 559), the agency responsible for enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Without the ADA enforcement by the DOJ or the possible complete removal (Project 2025, Mandate to Leadership, page 557), businesses would have the discretion to decide whether to offer accommodations for the Deaf community.

What Could Go Wrong:

  • Vanishing Interpreters: Without a legal mandate, businesses and institutions might decide sign language interpreters are too costly, leaving many in the Deaf community without a critical means of communication.
  • Scarce Captioning: Real-time captioning could become a rare commodity, making it tough for Deaf and hard-of-hearing people to access information in real-time, whether in classrooms, meetings, or public events.

    Less Assistive Tech: The availability of assistive listening devices might plummet as companies look to cut costs on accommodations that are no longer required by law.

Slashing Deaf Education Opportunities

Education is an arena where the ADA has made significant inroads by requiring reasonable accommodations for all students.

Project 2025’s deregulatory crusade could turn back the clock, leading to a resurgence of discrimination and a drastic reduction in opportunities for Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. This includes dismantling the Department of Education, along with the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (Project 2025, Mandate to Leadership, page 319). What would happen to all programs under these Departments when the grants are removed or the programs themselves are removed? Unknown (Project 2025, Mandate to Leadership, page 325 & 360).

What Could Go Wrong:

  • De-funding Gallaudet & NTID: The Education of the Deaf Act protects Gallaudet University and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and requires Congress to provide a Federal appropriation every year. Project 2025 says that Congress will not give any funding to Gallaudet and NTID. Since Gallaudet and NTID receive substantial funding from the Department of Education, and the DoE will be dismantled, Gallaudet will also be defunded.
  • Educational Barriers: Schools and universities could roll back support services such as interpreters and captioning, making higher education less accessible for Deaf students.
  • Rising Discrimination: Without the ADA’s robust protections, Deaf and hard-of-hearing people might face heightened discrimination.

Gutting Public Health Services Funding

Public health services are lifelines for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community, offering everything from hearing aids to cochlear implants.

But Project 2025’s drive to slash government spending puts these crucial services on the chopping block, threatening the quality and availability of healthcare. This includes a huge cut to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.  The FCC will be reworked and defunded (Project 2025, Mandate to Leadership, page 850). Since VRS is provided for free by the FCC, it may no longer be available for all Americans

What Could Go Wrong:

  • Access to Hearing Aids and Implants: Funding cuts could make hearing aids and cochlear implants even harder to obtain, hitting low-income individuals the hardest
  • Support Services: Programs offering support and counseling for Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals could see their budgets slashed, reducing the quality and scope of services.
  • Early Intervention: Cuts to early intervention programs could have a devastating impact on young children with hearing impairments, affecting their development and future opportunities.

Is it likely that Project 2025 will happen?

We’re aware this article has been a bit gloom and doom, so let’s put some things into perspective. Yes, a lot of civil services and mandated accommodations are under fire with Project 2025. However, a few things need to happen for them to come true. 

  1. Presidential Election Win: In order for Project 2025 to be successful, a Republican candidate must win the presidency this fall.

  2. Policy Adoption: The Republican candidate would need to embrace Project 2025’s proposals and actively work to implement them. So far, Republican candidate former president Trump has disavowed Project 2025, but he had already embraced many of its policies. According to the Heritage Foundation itself, “One year after taking office, President Donald Trump and his administration have embraced nearly two-thirds of the policy recommendations from The Heritage Foundation’s ‘Mandate for Leadership.’”

  3. Political Climate: The overall political climate would need to be conducive to enacting these proposals. This might involve a Republican-controlled Congress or a weakened Democratic opposition, which can likely happen under a Republican presidency.

  4. Congressional Approval: Congress would need to enact budget cuts and laws proposed by Project 2025. 

Stand Up and Be Heard

Project 2025 is a stark reminder that progress can never be taken for granted. The Deaf and hard-of-hearing community, along with their allies, need to rally and ensure that these proposed changes don’t roll back decades of hard-won rights. Advocacy is more crucial than ever.

Sure, Project 2025 might have lofty goals of economic reform and streamlined governance. But it’s critical to weigh these against the real-world impacts on marginalized communities. The rights and funding for Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals must not be sacrificed in the name of deregulation. 

We encourage you to follow individuals like Sara Nović, @photonovic on Instagram, and David Player, @d7play on Instagram, who are actively covering this topic in real-time. We thank her and others in the Deaf community who are bringing these topics to light and in digestible ways for others to comprehend the severity of the issue. 

What else can you do? Vote