effective communication

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.

Does a doctor have to provide a sign language interpreter if I ask for one?

Title II and III ADA regulations specifically state that you cannot be required to bring a family member or another individual with you to interpret.  Instead the doctor is required to provide auxiliary aids or services in order to ensure effective communication.  This could mean hiring a qualified sign language interpreter or it might be another method, such as video remote translating—as long as the communication is equally effective for both of you to understand each other. 

Are there any circumstances when a public or a private entity is not required to provide effective communication?

Yes, public and private entities do not have to provide an auxiliary aid or service if doing so would create “a fundamental alteration” in the goods or services being offered or would result in an “undue burden” which means “significant difficulty or expense.” However, they still must do their best to provide a different auxiliary aid that would ensure effective communication if at all possible. And state and local government agencies have to do a bit more explaining why not than private businesses do.

Who chooses the auxiliary aid or service that will be provided?

The person making the request should be clear about his/her needs; the person providing the auxiliary aid or service needs to be sure that what is provided is also effective. 

If the request comes to a state or local government agency, the agency must give priority to the type of auxiliary aid or service the person identifies.  If the request comes to a Title III or private entity, however, the business can decide on the specific type of auxiliary aid it provides as long as the aid provided is equally effective in ensuring accurate communication. 

What are auxiliary aids and services?

Auxiliary aids and services are items, equipment or services that assist in effective communication between a person who has a hearing, vision or speech disability and a person who does not. There is a list of examples in the ADA, but the ADA was written in 1990. There are so many new technologies and services that have been invented and discovered since then, that the items listed in the ADA are not the only options available.

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