After over 25 years, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) continues to receive bipartisan support and offers fundamental reform protections that benefit our society and the qualified individuals it safeguards. The ADA is not an entitlement program for eligible individuals, such as Medicaid, Medicare, or Social Security. Even persons living with hearing loss, for example, criticize the use of the terms ‘disabled’ and ‘hearing impaired’ to describe their medical condition, preferring less restrictive quantifiers, such as d/Deaf or hard of hearing.
Whether you have an interest in protecting individuals from discrimination in the work place, ensuring access to programs and services through state and local governments, or access to businesses that are open to the public, the ADA applies. An essential function of the ADA obligates state and local governments (Title II entities) and private businesses that are open to the pubic (Title III entities) to communicate effectively with persons who have identified communication needs. The ADA imposed on covered entities, for example, the procurement of an auxiliary aid or service whenever “necessary to ensure effective communication with individuals with disabilities." 28 C.F.R. § 36.303(c)(1)(ii). TThe kinds of aids or services will vary “in accordance with the method of communication used by the individual; the nature, length, and complexity of the communication involved; and the context in which the communication is taking place.” Id.
Communication access needs are not all-encompassing or multipurpose and may not be just one initial expenditure by the covered entity. A person who is d/Deaf or hard of hearing, for instance, may require auxiliary aids or services that are different from another individual who is living with hearing loss. Various devices and services may be needed through the course of professional services rendered because the ADA imposes protections each time the individual receives medical care or legal advice. This continuity of compliance methodology is comparable, therefore, to the ADA Title I employers’ accommodation mandate, which may also have ongoing duties.
If you would like to better understand the d/Deaf and hard of hearing community, receive detailed training from the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, assess how the courts are complying and how the ADA affects your law practice, please join us on Tues., Jan. 30th from 4:30 – 7:00 p.m. to engage in critical conversations from experienced panelists and presenters. Here is a link:
Lorianne M. Sainsbury-Wong, Esq., CPCO | MBA Health Law Section Council, Former Chairperson, and MBA Civil Litigation Section Council Member