April 5, 2011 News

ADA Targets Communication Disabilities

In comments to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), ASHA commended DOJ for its efforts to promote the increased integration of individuals with disabilities, particularly those with communication disabilities, into all aspects of society, and offered specific recommendations on each of four topics.

ASHA prepared comments in response to recent advance notices of proposed rulemaking seeking public input on possible revisions to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations to ensure accessibility for individuals with disabilities. The notices address possible changes to regulations in Titles II and III.

Equipment and Furniture 

Regulations will be developed to ensure that equipment and furniture used in programs and services provided by public entities and public accommodations are accessible to individuals with disabilities. ASHA commented that:

  • ASHA members work in a variety of settings—schools, hospitals, rehabilitation hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient clinics, private offices, home health agencies, and universities. Furniture and equipment used in these public facilities should be accessible by individuals with disabilities.
  • The use of electronic and information technology (EIT) is based on communication skills—spoken, written, and/or auditory—and alternate, multiple forms of interaction to increase accessibility to EIT by all users should be provided.

Access to Movies 

The DOJ is considering regulations to ensure that movie theater goods, services, facilities, privileges, accommodations, or advantages are accessible to individuals who have hearing or vision impairments through closed captioning or video description. In its submitted comments, ASHA stated that:

  • Movie captioning has the potential to increase communication for all viewers, although it was originally intended for the benefit of 31.5 million Americans who have hearing loss.
  • Movie captioning provides supplemental information and reduces barriers to the auditory signal that also may be experienced by some individuals who have no hearing impairment.

Next Generation 9-1-1 

Current regulations require direct and equal access to telephone emergency centers via analog text telephones (TTYs). Regulations are needed to ensure that 911 call centers are accessible to individuals with disabilities who use the Internet or wireless text devices as their primary modes of telecommunications. In its comments, ASHA noted that:

  • Trained interpreters are to be used to access emergency call centers. They must not only translate words, they also must have the knowledge and skills to relay concepts and ideas between languages and must be sensitive to the cultures associated with the languages used. Only individuals with the appropriate knowledge and skill sets should serve in this capacity.
  • In the absence of the ideal goal of direct access by all callers to 911, ASHA recommends specific routing policies when transferring an individual’s call. Transfers should be made only to centers with call-takers who are fluent in oral/sign language; who have been trained in oral/sign language interpreting services; and who have experience working with individuals with speech and language impairments, with overall communication etiquette, and with the many different forms of communication technology—including, for example, augmentative communication systems.

Only interpreters specifically trained in using interpreting services should be used, and specific standards and specialized training should be required to ensure effectiveness and consistency in services and the qualifications of service providers.

Web Accessibility 

Regulations are being developed to ensure that Internet goods, services, facilities, privileges, accommodations, or advantages offered by public accommodations and services, programs, or activities offered by state and local governments to the public via the web are accessible to individuals with disabilities. ASHA commented that:

  • Ensuring web accessibility to persons with communication disabilities will enhance their ability to further engage and contribute within their communities, expand employment options, and expand their ability to access social and professional resources. With equal access to the Internet, individuals with disabilities can use the same criteria as their non-disabled peers to determine whether to use particular media, products, modalities, or services.
  • Website accessibility regulations are needed to support increased use of and growing dependence on the web, particularly by individuals with disabilities.  

Catherine Clarke, director of education and regulatory advocacy, can be reached at cclarke@asha.org or 800-498-2071, ext. 5611.

Karen Beverly-Ducker, MA, CCC-A, director of multicultural resources, can be reached at kbeverlyducker@asha.org or 800-498-2071, ext. 5718.

cite as: Clarke, C.  & Beverly-Ducker, K. (2011, April 05). ADA Targets Communication Disabilities. The ASHA Leader.


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