Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Is audio description provided by museum staff or is it a profession like sign language interpreters?

Providing effective audio description is a technical skill that is being learned by professional audio describers in many cities. It began in towns where patrons with vision loss wanted to attend live theater; but now Describers are also working in museums and on guided tours.  If you want to know who provides audio description in your area, contact your local ADA Center at 1-800-949-4232.

Do restaurants have to provide Braille menus?

No. It might be an undue administrative or financial burden for a restaurant to print a new Braille menu every time they change an item or price.

However, it is not appropriate for a request for a Braille menu to be answered with simply “we don’t have any.” Restaurant staff should be trained on how to properly provide the information from the menu to guests so they can make their choices from the full menu.

What is an example of “fundamental alteration” of the goods or services being offered?

The classic example which may or may not have really happened is for someone who is Deaf to ask that the lights in a planetarium be raised so that she could see her interpreter.  Of course, this would fundamentally alter the experience for everyone, including the person who asked.  However, even though the planetarium could - and probably did - deny this request, the planetarium still has obligations under the ADA.  One possible solution would be to offer the patron a seat off on the far right or left and position the interpreter with a dim light right in front of her.  Another would be to

Can I ask a theater to allow me to bring my own interpreter and request designated seats so she can sit in front of me? I would also like a copy of the script ahead of time so my interpreter can read it.

The answer here is “yes, you can bring your own sign language interpreter.” You can bring someone with you as your companion or interpreter but you would have to buy two tickets.

BUT the requirement for effective communication does not require the theater to take any action that would cause a fundamental alteration in the goods or services being offered.  Having someone sit in the seat in front of you so she could interpret would disturb the other patrons and would fundamentally alter the experience for them. 

Is a hospital required to provide an interpreter for someone who is not the patient?

The requirement to provide effective communication includes the obligation to provide effective communication to companions who are Deaf. So the hospital is required to find a way to communicate with someone who has a communication disability “as effectively” as they would communicate with that person if he/she did not have the disability.

Can you give an example of when an interpreter may not be objective?

For example, suppose a school system employs an interpreter to work with a Deaf child in a classroom.  Now suppose that she is asked by her Principal to interpret for a Deaf parent during an appointment where the parent is very upset about an issue.  Imagine that the parent proceeds to cuss out the Principal. How difficult that scenario might be for the interpreter. She doesn’t want to jeopardize her job by saying all those things to the Principal. But if she doesn’t – if she “sugar coats it” – that is unfair to both sides.

Are the effective communication requirements different for a state or local government than for a private business? 

State and local governments must give primary consideration to what the person with a disability requests.  So if this same person who is Deaf plans to attend a City Council meeting and requests an interpreter, the city must provide it unless doing that would somehow be impossible - maybe because the request was just made the morning of the meeting and no interpreter could be found on such short notice.  However, the city must make a good faith effort to secure the services of an interpreter.

What if the person who is Deaf wants to use a family member to interpret?

The ADA regulations also say that a public entity or private business shall not rely on an accompanying adult except: "where the individual with a disability specifically requests that the accompanying adult interpret or facilitate communication, the accompanying adult agrees…and reliance on that adult is appropriate under the circumstances."

Pages