The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires covered entities to effectively communicate with individuals with disabilities. The purpose of these requirements is to guarantee that those with communication disabilities receive the same level of effective communication as non-disabled individuals. The ADA requirement for communication applies to both Title II entities (state and local governments) and Title III entities (businesses and non-profit organizations). A communication disability may include vision, hearing or speech disability which requires the individual to utilize an alternative method for communication. How are covered entities required to ensure effective communication for those with related disabilities? Those covered by the ADA must provide:
- Assistive devices to those with communication disabilities in order to facilitate communication. The ADA refers to these devices as “auxiliary aids and services”. The provision of auxiliary aids and services can refer to a variety of accommodations depending on the needs of the individual. For example, a deaf person must be offered the ability to communicate with the use of writing tools or sign language, or by providing a sign language interpreter or a note-taker.
- Effective communication that adheres to these principles requires the covered entity to take into consideration the type and complexity of the communication and how that individual typically communicates. For example, in a retail context, the business might need to communicate via written or visual cues to assist a person who is deaf in deciding whether to purchase a product. In contrast, in a doctor’s office, an interpreter is usually necessary to accurately record the medical history of a deaf person.
- An independent person to assist with communication and cannot rely on the use of another person (either an adult or minor) accompanying the disabled individual to act as an interpreter in most contexts. This rule does not apply if (i) in an emergency situation where the safety of an individual is an issue or (ii) the disabled individual requests that the accompanying adult act as an interpreter and such individual agrees provided the person assisting is not a minor.
If you have questions or concerns about whether your business is in compliance with the ADA and the California Building Code, contact California ADA attorney and certified accessibility specialist (CASp) Cris Vaughan for assistance. To discuss your concerns, please call 310.426.2836 in Los Angeles, 415.492.2854 in San Francisco Bay Area and 916.660.9401 in Sacramento.