Communication responsibilities for private and public organizations

People with vision, hearing, and speech disabilities may need to communicate in different ways, such as through an interpreter or materials in large print. The goal for communication under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is to make your organization’s communication with people with hearing, vision, and speech disabilities as equally effective as its communication with people without disabilities.

Who has responsibilities

Under ADA law, you are required to communicate effectively with people who have disabilities if you are a:

  • Employer (Title I)
  • State and local government (Title II)
  • Business owner (Title III)
  • Service provider (Title III)

When a person with a disability visits or contacts your organization, they should be able to:

  • Get information
  • Give information
  • Communicate with staff

What you must provide

Your organization must provide auxiliary aids and services (or alternative methods of communication) when they are needed to communicate effectively. The rules also apply to communicating with the person’s parent, spouse, or companion if the individual is using them for support.

Your organization is responsible for the costs of the auxiliary aid or service. 

Common examples of auxiliary aids and services

  • Qualified interpreters
  • Captioning
  • Transcription services
  • Magnification software
  • Large print materials
  • Audio recordings

More examples of auxiliary aids and services

Deciding what type of communication 

Always start by asking the individual what type of communication they prefer.

Things to think about

  • The nature and context of the communication
  • How long the meeting or interaction will be
  • How complex is the information being shared
  • The person’s normal method of communication

When you don’t have to provide what is requested

Private business or nonprofit organization

You should only use a different communication method than what the individual prefers if:

  • What you provide is equally effective, or 
  • Using the preferred method would create an undue burden (very difficult or expensive). If the preferred method is too difficult or expensive, you still have to provide some form of auxiliary aids and services. 

Government organization

A local or state government organization has to provide the method of communication you ask for, unless it is too difficult of expensive.

If the preferred method is too difficult or expensive, you still have to provide some form of auxiliary aids and services. 

Learn more about effective communication

Ask us

If you have questions about the ADA, we can help.


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