The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires state governments, local governments, and businesses and nonprofit organizations that serve the public to take steps to enable effective communication with people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The ADA places the responsibility of providing accommodations on the government entities and the businesses and nonprofits that serve the public. These entities have the responsibility for providing accommodations for customers, clients, or other members of the public who are deaf or hard of hearing. (These entities cannot require Deaf or hard of hearing individuals to bring their own interpreter, such as a family member, friend, or child).

Read more about the ADA requirements for accommodations that must be made for members of the public with hearing disabilities on the website.

Government entities and businesses (including nonprofits) that serve the public also have a responsibility to ensure effective communication with Deaf or hard of hearing employees or job applicants.

Read more about the ADA requirements for accommodations that must be made for employees and job applicants with hearing disabilities on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Website.

The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice has published guidance on adhering to the requirements of the ADA. This published guidance specifies that one of the available accommodations to enable effective communication with people who are deaf or hard of hearing is a “qualified interpreter,” which it defines as follows:

A ‘qualified’ interpreter means someone who is able to interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially, both receptively (i.e., understanding what the person with the disability is saying) and expressively (i.e., having the skill needed to convey information back to that person) using any necessary specialized vocabulary.

The published guidelines from the Department of Justice also specifically mention video remote interpreting (VRI) in the list of “auxiliary aids and services” to promote effective communication. Here is how the website describes video remote interpreting:

Video remote interpreting (VRI) is a fee-based service that uses video conferencing technology to access an off-site interpreter to provide real-time sign language or oral interpreting services for conversations between hearing people and people who are deaf or have hearing loss. The new regulations give covered entities the choice of using VRI or on-site interpreters in situations where either would be effective. VRI can be especially useful in rural areas where on-site interpreters may be difficult to obtain. Additionally, there may be some cost advantages in using VRI in certain circumstances. However, VRI will not be effective in all circumstances. For example, it will not be effective if the person who needs the interpreter has difficulty seeing the screen (either because of vision loss or because he or she cannot be properly positioned to see the screen, because of an injury or other condition). In these circumstances, an on-site interpreter may be required.

The Department of Justice guidelines further specify that if VRI is chosen (as opposed to in-person interpreting), then all the following technology and training requirements must be met:

  • real-time, full-motion video and audio over a dedicated high-speed, wide-bandwidth video connection or wireless connection that delivers high-quality video images that do not produce lags, choppy, blurry, or grainy images, or irregular pauses in communication;
  • a sharply delineated image that is large enough to display the interpreter’s face, arms, hands, and fingers, and the face, arms, hands, and fingers of the person using sign language, regardless of his or her body position;
  • a clear, audible transmission of voices; and
  • adequate staff training to ensure quick set-up and proper operation.

Click here to read more about the Department of Justice guidelines for complying with the “effective communication” requirements in the ADA.

At Dovetail Communication Group, we provide both in-person ASL interpreting as well as video remote interpreting (VRI). Our video remote interpreting procedures meet or exceed the requirements listed above. We are based in Austin, and we are proud to serve clients in the Austin area as well as throughout Texas. (In addition, we offer all of our specialty ASL services nationwide.)

You can be confident that our in-person ASL interpreting services and our VRI services exceed all ADA requirements. Our highly qualified interpreters are carefully vetted for their certification level, skills, and experience. Whatever the situation, we will help businesses and other entities go above and beyond the ADA requirements and communicate effectively with ALL their customers, clients, and employees.