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Small Business Administration Boosts Access to Services for Deaf and Hard Of Hearing Entrepreneurs
WASHINGTON– Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet, the head of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) was joined yesterday by Tom Wheeler, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), T. Alan Hurwitz, President of Gallaudet University, as well as campus and deaf and hard of hearing community leaders to announce a new initiative to boost access to SBA services for deaf and hard of hearing entrepreneurs. Using videophone technology, the agency will have staff fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) available to provide a direct connection to services available to help small business owners start and grow their ventures.
“More than 335,000 Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing already own their own business, and we believe even more members of this community have the right stuff to follow suit,” said Contreras-Sweet. “Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing are nearly twice as likely to become entrepreneurs when compared to the population at large, and we stand ready to ensure they have the direct access to make their dreams a reality.”
“Administrator Contreras-Sweet’s leadership has set an example for how federal agencies can make technology work for all Americans,” said Wheeler. “Today is a great day in terms of the fulfillment of her vision. By enhancing accessibility, SBA is expanding opportunity. I hope other agencies will follow its lead.”
“The effort by the SBA to increase access to services is a step in the right direction toward helping deaf people and hard of hearing establish their own businesses,” said Hurwitz. “We applaud those efforts and look forward to continuing to work with the SBA on promoting and expanding opportunities for deaf and hard of hearing entrepreneurs.”
The SBA is proud to join the FCC in becoming the second federal agency to provide videophone services directly to the deaf and hard of hearing in their native language. By having staff that are fluent in both ASL and the language of business, SBA’s new ASL Customer Support Line will ensure access to key services vital to small business growth.