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ADA Requirements - Effective Communication

Effective Communication Provisions

Covered entities must provide aids and services when needed to communicate effectively with people who have communication disabilities.

The key to deciding what aid or service is needed to communicate effectively is to consider the nature, length, complexity, and context of the communication as well as the person’s normal method(s) of communication.

Some easy solutions work in relatively simple and straightforward situations. For example:

  • In a lunchroom or restaurant, reading the menu to a person who is blind allows that person to decide what dish to order.
  • In a retail setting, pointing to product information or writing notes back and forth to answer simple questions about a product may allow a person who is deaf to decide whether to purchase the product.

Other solutions may be needed where the information being communicated is more extensive or complex. For example:

  • In a law firm, providing an accessible electronic copy of a legal document that is being drafted for a client who is blind allows the client to read the draft at home using a computer screen-reading program.
  • In a doctor’s office, an interpreter generally will be needed for taking the medical history of a patient who uses sign language or for discussing a serious diagnosis and its treatment options.

A person’s method(s) of communication are also key. For example, sign language interpreters are effective only for people who use sign language. Other methods of communication, such as those described above, are needed for people who may have lost their hearing later in life and do not use sign language. Similarly, Braille is effective only for people who read Braille. Other methods are needed for people with vision disabilities who do not read Braille, such as providing accessible electronic text documents, forms, etc.that can be accessed by the person’s screen reader program.

Covered entities are also required to accept telephone calls placed through TRS and VRS, and staff who answer the telephone must treat relay calls just like other calls. The communications assistant will explain how the system works if necessary.

Remember, the purpose of the effective communication rules is to ensure that the person with a communication disability can receive information from, and convey information to, the covered entity.