Deaf Lifeguard Overcomes Summary Judgment in ADA Case – The Need to Individually Assess Each Applicant
The case of a deaf man who applied to be a lifeguard demonstrates an important lesson under the Americans with Disability Act: while it might make “sense” to an employer that a deaf person cannot be a lifeguard, such stereotypical thinking may not hold up under deeper scrutiny.
In Keith v. County of Oakland1, a deaf man applied to be a lifeguard at a county wave pool. He could detect some noises through his cochlear implant, such as alarms, whistles and people calling for him. He could not speak verbally but communicated using sign language. He had his lifeguard certification. The county offered him a job, conditioned on a pre-employment physical.