Relevancy for Deaf, Late deafened, and Hard of Hearing Persons

Please note: This document is not intended to replace qualified legal advice or to serve as basis for any attempted or actual legal action. An attorney experienced with the Title II provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act should always be consulted if you think there is a possibility you may have been discriminated against by any official or institution of state or local government.

The Americans with Disabilities Act only applies to persons who fall under the definition of having a disability. This is defined as a person who:

  • Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities such as walking, seeing and hearing;

  • Has a record of such an impairment;

  • Is regarded as having such an impairment

Title III of the ADA covers places which are privately - not publicly - owned, but which are open to the public. Some examples of this: hotels and motels, restaurants, stores, doctors' offices, libraries, museums, day care centers, private educational facilities, cinemas and theaters.

Title III also covers commercial facilities to the extent that any new construction or alteration must be made accessible; however, it does not cover religious organizations or private clubs. In the case of religious organizations, there are some very limited exceptions; consult an attorney for specific information. In the case of private clubs, the clubs themselves are not obligated to provide reasonable accommodations, but they can be held liable if the facilities they rent or lease out to the public are not accessible.

Under Title III, public accommodations must provide auxiliary aids and services to ensure effective communication access. This includes ASL and oral interpreters, assistive listening devices, CART services, televisions capable of displaying closed captions, Telecommunication Devices for the Deaf and amplified telephones, among others.

It is important to keep in mind that the law recognizes that the D/LD/HOH person has the choice of which accommodation best fits his/her communication needs; an equally effective substitute may be provided if the original request is unreasonable, unfillable, or fundamentally alters the nature of the program or service provided.

For example, while providing a dialogue script to a hard of hearing person on a factory tour would be considered reasonable and effective, doing the same for a Deaf ASL-user who has given advance notification of attendance would not be acceptable because it fails to provide effective access. However, the same Deaf person showing up unnanounced and expecting to be provided with an ASL interpreter cannot argue that accommodation was denied, since it would be unreasonable to expect the factory to hire a full - time ASL interpreter in case a Deaf person shows up.

Public accommodations must also make their facilities accessible. Hotels, motels and inns must provide visual fire alarms, TDD's or amplified telephones, closed - captioned TV's, flashing door signalers and an alarm clock with a bed-shaker to the D/LD/HOH guest when he/she notifies the facility in advance. A hospital, if it provides televisions and room phones to all patients, must also provide a closed captioned television set, an amplified phone or a TDD, a loud ringer or visual ring signaler, and a visual fire alarm in every room in which there is a D/LD/HOH patient. In addition, rooms used by the general public within these facilities are also covered by these regulations.

Reasonable accommodations must be paid for by the place of public accommodation. The costs cannot be passed on to the individual with a disability.

Similar to Title II of the ADA, a place of public accommodation must provide services in an integrated setting. A D/LD/HOH person cannot be excluded from taking part in any activity offered by a place of public accommodation; unless it is unreasonable or fundamentally changes the nature of the activity or service provided then whatever modifications are necessary to include a person with hearing loss must be made. Of course, there is no obligation to include a D/LD/HOH person if such inclusion would present a tangible and immediate threat to others; however, this cannot be based on speculation or stereotypes but must have a foundation in fact.

More information can be found at the Department of Justice's ADA Home Page.

This information is provided by the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.