The Americans with Disabilities Act: how does it apply to my business?

The Americans with Disabilities (ADA) is, it is a civil rights law that was established in 1990 that “prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.” While the ADA protects all individuals with all types of disabilities, we will discuss the portions of the ADA that applies to Deaf people.

When the ADA refers to private businesses that are open to the public, it’s called places of public accommodations. All businesses are required to ensure equal access for all disabilities. In the case of Deaf patrons, businesses need to ensure effective communication. To find this information in the ADA, you may go to “Sec. 36.303, Auxiliary aids and services” (https://www.ada.gov/reachingout/t3regl2.html). Businesses need to consult with the Deaf consumer and find out their preferred method of communication. These would include “qualified interpreters on-site or through video remote interpreting (VRI) services; notetakers; real-time computer-aided transcription services; written materials; exchange of written notes; telephone handset amplifiers; assistive listening devices; assistive listening systems; telephones compatible with hearing aids; closed caption decoders; open and closed captioning, including real-time captioning; voice, text, and video-based telecommunications products and systems, including text telephones (TTYs), videophones, and captioned telephones, or equally effective telecommunications devices; videotext displays; accessible electronic and information technology; or other effective methods of making aurally delivered information available to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.”

The ADA does an incredible job of covering all different types of effective communications. The reason there is such a huge variety of effective communications is because there is not one accommodation that works for everyone. As mentioned in the previous blog, https://inclusiveasl.com/captioning-or-interpreting/ ,one individual may be late-deafened and would benefit from captioning, while another individual may benefit from an ASL interpreter. The ADA needs to cover every single type of accommodation so that businesses have appropriate guidelines to follow. You can find out the best accommodation needed by talking with your client directly and find out what is suitable for them.

So, do you as a business need to provide accommodations to ensure all patrons have equal access? The answer is a simple but sweet “yes”. It is your responsibility to make sure all customers are able to access every part of your business, whether it is providing an interpreter/captioning, making your building accessible for individuals who use a wheelchair or having braille signs for individuals who are blind and need to find their way throughout the building. Per the ADA, businesses are also responsible for covering the cost of the accommodations – it is never the customer’s responsibility. To receive resources or to learn more about the ADA, check out their website at https://adata.org/learn-about-ada.

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