Title II - Effective Communication
Under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) public entities are required to ensure that applicants, participants, and members of the general public with disabilities have communication access that is equally effective as that provided to people without disabilities. In other words, ALL general public information should be made available in accessible formats such as large print, cassette recording, computer diskette, and Braille. Public entities are responsible for providing these services upon request unless doing so would cause a fundamental alternation or undue burden. Public entities are also prohibited against charging a fee for auxiliary aids and services.
In addition, public entities are required to provide specific communication access in the form of auxiliary aids and services upon request. In choosing an auxiliary aid or service, primary consideration shall be given to the aid or service requested by the individual. If the entity is unable to meet this request, they should work with the individual to determine an acceptable alternative.
Interpreter services is one type of auxiliary service which often causes confusion. A qualified interpreter is defined as an individual who is able to interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially, both receptively and expressively, using any necessary specialized vocabulary. In most situations, it is not appropriate to use a family member or companion as an interpreter. There is a difference between a qualified interpreter and a certified interpreter. In most cases a qualified interpreter will be adequate but in certain circumstances, such as in court proceedings, a certified interpreter may be needed.
One common question is when an interpreter is required. Although a notepad and pen for written communication may be sufficient for simple conversations, an interpreter is necessary where the information is complex or the exchange is lengthy. Factors to consider when determining the need for an interpreter include: the context of the event; the number of people involved; and the importance of the material being communicated.
A public entity producing television program or videotapes is required to either have it closed-captioned or interpreted.
Use of a TDD or the relay service is an appropriate means of ensuring access for people with speech or hearing disabilities during telephone communications.
Governmental entities that provide direct telephone access to emergency services, such as police and fire departments, must have a TDD. For emergency services, reliance on the relay service is not considered to be an acceptable alternative. Emergency services providers are also encouraged, but not required, to provide their 911 operators a voice amplification device in the telephone handset so that efforts of a hard of hearing person to communication on the telephone can be assisted if necessary.
General information, such as the availability and location of accessible services, activities, and facilities, must be provided by all public entities. This requirement specifically includes directional signage at inaccessible entrances indicating where an accessible entrance is located and signage indicating where portable TDDs or TDD pay phones are located.