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Title III of the ADA
Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination based on disability, including deafness,
by places of public accommodation. Title III provides that a public accommodation must provide an individual with a disability with full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of the public accommodation.
Providing Equal Access
It is discriminatory to exclude or otherwise deny equal goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, accommodations, or other opportunities to an individual with a disability.
If modifications or accommodations to policies, practices, or procedures are necessary to provide full and equal access to goods, services, privileges, advantages, or accommodations, those modifications or accommodations shall be made unless they would create an undue burden or fundamentally alter the nature of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations.
Providing Access to Sign Language Interpreters
Accommodations must provide meaningful access. Outright denial of a deaf individual’s request for a sign language interpreter violates the ADA. A public accommodation must consult with the individual with a disability regarding his or her communication needs and abilities whenever possible, but the ultimate decision as to what accommodation to provide rests with the place of public accommodation, as long as it provides effective communication.
Effective Communication for Deaf Individuals
While there may be instances when communication via written notes or a whiteboard is ADA-compliant, there may be other instances, such as those involving more complex communications, where a sign language interpreter is required.
Staff shall not outright deny a request for a sign language interpreter or tell residents, prospective residents, or their family members that it is their responsibility to provide or pay for an interpreter.
An Interactive Process For Better Understanding
Rather, when requests for sign language interpreters for interactions such as tours, resident assessments, residency agreement discussions and signing, and participation in group activities, as well as requests for other reasonable accommodations for deaf individuals such as doorbells with flashing lights, are received, staff shall engage in an interactive process with the individual until an understanding is reached regarding the deaf individual’s needs and abilities for effective communication.
Responding Promptly to Requests
Staff shall then provide the accommodation or modification that provides effective communication and equal access under the given circumstances. Staff shall respond promptly to requests for sign language interpreters and other accommodations and modification.
If a staff member is unsure of how to handle a request for an accommodation or modification, he or she shall escalate the matter to a supervisor.