Effective Communication Rights

Summary
Employers, state and local government agencies, and places of public accommodation must ensure that their communications with individuals with disabilities are as effective as communication with others.

Employers, state and local government agencies, and places of public accommodation must ensure that their communications with individuals with disabilities are as effective as communication with others. In order to provide equal access, these groups are required to provide auxiliary aids and services that promote effective communication.

Providing Auxiliary Aids and Services

Examples of common auxiliary aids and services include but are not limited to:

  • Qualified sign language interpreters
  • Written materials
  • Exchange of written notes
  • Assistive listening devices and systems
  • Open and closed captioning
  • Voice, text, and video-based telecommunications products and systems
  • Qualified readers
  • Audio recordings
  • Brailled materials and displays
  • Screen reader software
  • Magnification software
  • Large print materials

The type of auxiliary aid or service necessary to ensure effective communication will vary in accordance with the method of communication used by the individual; the nature, length, and complexity of the communication involved; and the context in which the communication is taking place.

A private business should consult with individuals with disabilities whenever possible to determine what type of auxiliary aid is needed to ensure effective communication, but the ultimate decision as to what measures to take rests with the private business, provided that the method chosen results in effective communication.

  • To be effective, auxiliary aids and services must be provided in accessible formats, in a timely manner, and in such a way as to protect the privacy and independence of the individual with a disability.
  • A public entity or private business is financially responsible for the cost of the auxiliary aid or service provided unless it can demonstrate that it would be an undue financial burden in light of the overall financial resources of the entire entity, including any parent corporation if applicable. It cannot impose a surcharge on an individual with a disability to cover the costs of the auxiliary aid or service provided. Even if it is determined that a particular auxiliary aid or service is an undue financial burden, the entity must still provide effective communication utilizing a different auxiliary aid or service.

Sign Language Interpreters

Sign language interpreters may be required when the information being communicated in a transaction is complex or is exchanged for a long period of time. An interpreter is not always required for all communication situations. Factors to be considered when deciding if the use of an interpreter is appropriate can include the context of the conversation, the number of people involved, and the importance of the communication.

Public entities and private businesses cannot require an individual with a disability to bring another individual to interpret for him or her. A public entity or private business shall not rely on an adult accompanying an individual to interpret or facilitate communication, except:

  • In an emergency involving an imminent threat to the safety or welfare of an individual or the public where there is no interpreter available
  • When the individual with a disability specifically requests that the accompanying adult interpret or facilitate communication, the accompanying adult agrees to provide such assistance, and reliance on that adult for assistance is appropriate under the circumstances.
  • A public accommodation shall not rely on a minor child to interpret or facilitate communication, except in an emergency involving an imminent threat to the safety or welfare of an individual or the public where there is no interpreter available.

Telecommunications

When a public entity or private business uses an automated phone system for receiving and directing incoming telephone calls, that system must provide effective real-time communication with individuals using auxiliary aids and services, including text telephones (TTYs) and relay services. A public entity or private business shall respond to telephone calls from a relay service in the same manner that it responds to other telephone calls.

A public entity or private business that offers a customer, client, patient, or participant the opportunity to make outgoing telephone calls using their equipment on more than an incidental convenience basis shall make available accessible public telephones, TTYs, or other telecommunications products and systems for use by an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing, or has a speech impairment.

Advocacy Strategies

  • Know your rights. Keep up to date on the ADA regulations pertaining to employment. Call the Rocky Mountain ADA Center for more information.
  • Title I regulations. Have a copy of the ADA Title I regulations on hand when requesting a reasonable accommodation.
  • Request in writing. Although it is not required, when possible, request reasonable accommodations in writing and be specific about how the accommodations will help you meet your essential job duties.
  • Disclosure is your prerogative unless you need a reasonable accommodation.
  • Be prepared with supporting medical documentation that indicates the need for reasonable accommodations when making a request to an employer.
  • Follow up with your employer about your positive or negative experiences receiving reasonable accommodations. Give your employer feedback on the effectiveness of the accommodations.
  • Denied request: If your request for reasonable accommodation is denied, call the ADA Center and we will discuss your situation with you and provide you with informal guidance on next steps.

 

The Rocky Mountain ADA Center is not an enforcement agency, nor does it provide advocacy services. The information and materials provided by the center are intended solely as informal guidance and are not a determination of your legal rights or responsibilities. All communication with the center is strictly confidential.

For possible additional resources, please see our resources page or contact the Rocky Mountain ADA Center through our Technical Assistance Form or call us directly at 800-949-4232.

External Resources