Attorneys and the requirement to Ensure Effective
Communication for Clients Who are Deaf
(Source: NAD Legal Center)
The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) went into effect on January 26, 1991. Title III of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. 12181-12183, provides people with disabilities the right to equal access to public accommodations. Both Title III of the ADA, and the U.S. Department of Justice regulation pursuant to Title III, 28 C.F.R Part 36, specifically include the offices of lawyers in the definition of public accommodations. 42 U.S.C 12181;28 C.F.R 36.104.
Under Title III, public accommodations are required to provide auxiliary aids and services to ensure effective communication with deaf and hard of hearing people:
A public accommodation shall furnish appropriate auxiliary aids and services where necessary to ensure effective communication with individuals with disabilities. 28 C.F.R 36.303 (c).
A comprehensive list of auxiliary aids and services required by the ADA is set forth in this regulation, and includes, for deaf and hard of hearing individuals:
Qualified interpreters, notetakers, computer-aided transcription services, written materials, telephone handset amplifiers, assistive listening devices, assistive listening systems, telephone compatible with hearing aids, closed caption decoders, open and closed captioning, telecommunication devices for deaf persons (TDD), videotext displays, or other effective methods of making aurally delivered materials available to individuals with hearing impairments. 28 C.F.R. 36.303 (b) (1).
The term qualified interpreter is defined in the regulation to mean:
.. an interpreter who is able to interpret effectively, accurately and impartially both receptively and expressively, using any necessary specialized vocabulary.. 28 C.F.R. 36.104
The Analysis to this regulation makes it clear that Congress, as well as the Department of Justice, "expects that public accommodations (s) will consult with the individual with a disability before providing a particular auxiliary aid or service." 56 Fed.Reg at 35567, quoting H.R. Rep.No. 485,101st Cong.,2d Sess.,pt.2 at 107 (1990). The Department of Justice further states in its Analysis:
It is not difficult to imagine a wide range of Communications involving areas such as health, legal matters, and finances that would be sufficiently lengthy or complex to require an interpreter for effective communication. 56 Fed.Reg at 35567 (emphasis added).
The Department of Justice has also noted in its Analysis:
The Department wishes to emphasize that public accommodations must take steps necessary to ensure that an individual with a disability will not be excluded, denied services, segregated or otherwise treated differently from other individuals because of the use of inappropriate or ineffective auxiliary aids. In those situations requiring an interpreter, the public accommodations must secure the services of a qualified interpreter, unless an undue burden would result. 56 Fed.Reg at 35567 (emphasis added).
The Department of Justice does not permit a public accommodation to charge a person with a disability…to cover the cost of measures, such as the provision of auxiliary aids…that are required to provide that individual, with the nondiscriminatory treatment required by the Act or this part. 28 C.F.R. 36.301 (c)
It is clear from the Act, the Regulation and its Analysis, that importance communications, such as those with an attorney, will require provision of a qualified sign language interpreter to ensure effective communication with the deaf client.
If you have other questions or would like additional information regarding interpreter services in Oregon or other deaf and hard of hearing related information please contact:
Oregon's Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (ODHHS)
500 Summer Street NE, E-16
Salem, OR 97301