Communication Access

Individuals with sensory disabilities, such as vision and hearing, need to be able to receive information and engage in business relations, programs, and activities in the same manner as other community members and customers. Communication with individuals with sensory disabilities needs to be "effective" and this also has implications for information technology (IT) and website accessibility. This page will primarily focus on in person effective communication, however there are numerous links below to additional information for assistive technology, IT and web access.


Title II of the ADA

Title II of the ADA indicates that individuals with disabilities should not be discriminated against on the basis of disability in receipt of services, programs, or activities provided by public (state and local government) entities. It also indicates that a public entity must ensure that its communication with citizens with disabilities are as effective as it would be with anyone else. Public entities are required to provide appropriate aids or services that ensure effective communication, unless to do so would fundamentally alter the nature of the service/activity or cause undue financial burden. What type of aid or service is offered will depend on the length and complexity of the communication needed. For example, if a person who is blind needs to fill out a brief, non-confidential form at his local city hall, then effective communication may be achieved by the city clerk reading the questions and writing down the answers for the individual. However if the city needs to convey important tax billing information to that same individual, then s/he may need the information converted to either Braille, large print, or electronically if the citizen uses a computer screen reader. The public entity needs to give primary consideration to communication aid preference of the individual with the disability, unless it would result in undue financial or administrative burden for the entity.


Title III of the ADA

Title III of the ADA covers places of public accommodation, such as stores, restaurants, theaters, private schools, offices engaged in providing a service or business, hotels, fitness centers, etc., and commercial facilities, including facilities not open to the public. Title III also covers private entities primarily engaged in providing transportation, and any exams or courses related to applications, credentialing, or certification. There are some entities that may have some exemptions under Title III, such as private clubs, registered historic facilities, and religious entities. But those exemptions may not apply to all activities and those entities should review the ADA closely to understand what activities or actions are exempt and what are not. In general, a Title III covered entity may not discriminate against an individual with a disability when operating the place of public accommodation. Consumers and patrons with disabilities need to have the same opportunity to receive full and equal benefit of the business's goods, services, and facilities. In terms of communication access, Title III entities are expected to make appropriate aids and services available to ensure "effective communication". What type of aid or service is offered will depend on the length and complexity of the communication needed. For example, if a customer who is deaf or hearing impaired is paying for something at a store, effective communication between the cashier and customer may be achieved through writing notes back and forth. But if that same customer goes to a car dealership to look at cars with the intent to buy, then the interaction may be much more lengthy and involve many questions, and discussion of options, financial information, etc. So effective communication may be better achieved by the car dealership providing either a sign language interpreter, computer assisted real time captioning services, or video remote interpreting. The customer would need to indicate which communication aid/service would work best to ensure effective communication. Regardless of which communication aid/service is provided, the Title III entity must incur the charges associated with its provision.

Effective Communication Fact Sheet

PDF (114kb) | Fact Sheet, English
PDF (114kb) | Fact Sheet, en Espanól


To understand more about how Title II entities should provide effective communication, the various options of communication aids and services, as well as telecommunications requirements, visit the Communications section of the Department of Justice Title II Technical Assistance Manual


To understand more about how Title III entities should provide effective communication, and the various communication aid options, visit the Department of Justice Title III Technical Assistance Manual

Relevant Frequently Asked Questions

Communication
Website Accessibility

Relevant Archived Webinars

The Northeast ADA Center has several archives of webinar presentations on information and web technology and access. All slides, transcripts, and audio/visual presentation archives can be accessed free of charge by anyone. Access all archived webinars on this topic are available on the Webinar Archives page.

Assistive Technology

ABLEDATA

The ABLEDATA website is a good source for information on assistive technology products and rehabilitation equipment. The resources on the website include a catalog of assistive technology and rehabilitating products, information about organizations, conferences, and news that focus on accessibility and assistive technology, and ABLEDATA publications.

RESNA (Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America)

RESNA seeks to help people with disabilities accomplish their goals by supporting the research, education, advocacy, and use of assistive technology. RESNA is a membership organization that provides access to journal archives, networking opportunities, and discount to its members. RESNA certifies assistive technology service providers who met the technical standards. There is a tool to find local certified providers on the website.

National Assistive Technology Technical Assistance Partnership

The National Assistive Technology Technical Assistance Partnership provides information about funding for assistive technology, demonstrations of technology, and technology re-utilization programs.

Public Website on Assistive Technology

The Public Website on Assistive Technology product search helps the user easily find appropriate assistive technology by selecting an activity, a sub-activity, and a product type.

Traid-In Equipment Exchange Program

Traid-In Equipment Exchange Program is a New York State program that seeks to match people who wish to donate unused assistive technology with people who have a need for that technology. Interested parties fill out a form about their donation or request. If a match is made the parties have one month to determine the terms of the agreement.

Wheelchairnet

Wheelchairnet is an online community for consumers, manufactures, clinicians, legislators, and others interested in wheelchair use to interact. The "Community Living Resources" provide resources on topics such as "Parenting and Using a Wheelchair." "Wheelchair University" presents education and research on wheelchairs and the use of wheelchairs.

State Assistive Technology Programs

The 56 state and territory programs are funded under the Assistive Technology Act of 1998, as amended. State Assistive Technology Act programs work to improve the provision of assistive technology to individuals with disabilities of all ages through comprehensive statewide programs of technology-related assistance. Additionally, the programs support activities designed to maximize the ability of individuals with disabilities and their family members, guardians, and advocates to access and obtain assistive technology devices and services.

NYS Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs

161 Delaware Avenue
Delmar, New York 12054-1310
General Phone: (518) 549-0200 (Voice)
TTY: Dial 7-1-1 for the NYS Relay and give the operator 1-518-549-0200
Email: webmaster@justicecenter.ny.gov

Information & Referral
1-800-624-4143 (Monday-Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm)
TTY: Dial 7-1-1 for the NYS Relay and give the operator 1-800-624-414

Assistive Technology Advocacy Center (ATAC) of New Jersey Protection & Advocacy, Inc. (NJ P&A)

New Jersey Protection and Advocacy, Inc.
210 South Broad Street, 3rd Floor
Trenton, NJ 08608
Project Director: Curtis Edmonds
Phone: 609-292-9742
Phone: 800-922-7233 (In State)
TTY: 609-633-7106
Fax: 609-777-0187
Email: cedmonds@njpanda.org

Puerto Rico Assistive Technology Program Web

University of Puerto Rico
Central Administration/FILIUS Instituto
Assistive Technology Institute
Jardin Botanico Sur
1187 Calle Flamboyan
San Juan, PR 00926-1117
Program Director: Maria I. Miranda
Phone: 888-496-6035 (National)
Phone: 800-981-6033 (In Puerto Rico)
Phone: 787-764-6023 (Adminitrative Office)
TTY: 787-767-8034 Phone: 787-764-6035
Phone: 787-764-6042
Email: pratp@pratp.upr.edu

U. S. Virgin Islands Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities (TRAID)

University of the Virgin Islands/UCE
#2 John Brewers Bay
St. Thomas, U.S. VI 00801-0990
Executive Director: Yegin Habtes
Phone: 340-693-1323
Fax: 340-693-1325
Email: yhabtes@live.uvi.edu

Web Accessibility Resources

University of Washington: Do-It (Disability Opportunity Internetworking and Technology)

Do-It produces publications and videos focused on accessible information technology and assistive technology. There is also some information on mentoring and success in post-secondary education.

Employment and Disability Institute: Web Accessibility Toolkit

The Web Accessibility Toolkit is video and text instructions of how to make college websites accessible. The toolkit includes videos, instructions, and checklists of accessible features.

Section 508

Section 508 is an amendment to the Rehabilitation Act which requires all federal agencies to make their electronic information and resources accessible for individuals with a disability. The website has information about electronic accessibility laws and regulations and training. Businesses could benefit from the training which covers topics ranging from buying accessible technology to holding accessible events.