The ears of Georgia are upon you, guv

Noel Holston
3 min readApr 1, 2021

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My life “after deaf” is an open-ended story. New chapters just keep presenting themselves, begging to be written.

Here’s the latest. After watching a report on an evening newscast Monday about the brouhaha over Georgia’s new voting laws, I decided to contact our governor, Brian Kemp, to let him know what I thought.

I fired up my laptop and located the official website of the Governor of the State of Georgia — https://gov.georgia.gov/ — intending to send Kemp an email. A cochlear implant has made it possible for me to converse pretty normally face-to-face, but I struggle to understand even simple conversation on any kind of phone. Email and text are my lifelines.

I was surprised to find that under the “Contact Us” heading (see screen shot), there was no email address for Kemp listed. On the Georgia State Assembly’s website, you can easily find the email of every legislator, from the Speaker of the House to the greenest rookie lawmaker. But on the Office of the Governor website, there was a phone number to call and a snail mail address in Atlanta, but no text-able phone number, no apparent email option, and no TTY.

For the uninitiated, TTY is a device that enables people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech-impaired to use the telephone to communicate. It allows them to type text messages over a land line. Both parties have to have TTY for such a transaction to work.

I’m not a TTY user myself, but many hearing-impaired people are. And there are plenty of hearing-impaired folks in Georgia.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website — https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/impacts/georgia.html — 6.4 percent of Georgia’s citizens are deaf or seriously hearing impaired. That’s about 700,000 Georgians.

Lots of businesses and offices offer customers TTY options even though the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) encourages but does not require it if the service places an undue burden on the business.

Thing is, the governor’s office is not a business. And there is no “undue” burden involved. It operates on our tax dollars.

My wife, Marty Winkler, phoned the governor’s office on my behalf. The woman who took the call, informed of my disability and the difficulty I had encountered, didn’t seem particularly concerned. Marty mentioned the ADA, asked to speak with the woman’s supervisor and was told, essentially, “That’s not gonna happen.” She said she would look into it but didn’t ask my wife for a callback number.

After nosing around the website some more, I found a “Constituent Services” button. When I first clicked on it, I got a message on my screen that said I wasn’t “authorized” to use the service.

Eventually, however, I was able to pull up an email form. First it asked me to pick a topic from a drop-down menu; then I was provided with a box in which to type my “request.”

I hadn’t planned on making a request. I just wanted to comment. Maybe using the Office of the Governor website is like playing Jeopardy: You have to put your response in the form of a question.

If so, here’s mine: Would you please not make it so hard for a disabled person to comment on how you are doing your job? Or, for that matter, vote?

Noel Holston is the author of Life After Deaf: My Misadventures in Hearing Loss and Recovery, published by Skyhorse and available on Amazon.com and other national booksellers.

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Noel Holston

Writer, photographer, horticulturist, international music icon. Lives in the South. Email Noel at nholstonga@gmail.com