What is equally effective communications?

The Town must ensure that its communications with people with disabilities are as effective as its communications with others. Whatever accommodation is requested, the Town must seek to provide it unless it is determined it has been proven to result in either a fundamental alteration in the program, or result in an undue financial or administrative burden.

Auxiliary Aids: The Town is required to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services where necessary to ensure effective communication. Primary consideration must be given to the choice of auxiliary aid requested by the disabled person.

Examples of auxiliary aids and services include:

  • Deaf or hearing impaired: qualified interpreters, note takers, real-time captioning, written materials, assistive listening systems, open or closed captioning, TTYs, and exchange of written notes (if the communication is not complex);
  • Blind or low vision: qualified readers; audiotape, Braille, or large print materials, audio-descriptions of Powerpoint or video presentations; and assistance in locating items;
  • Speech disability: TTYs, computer terminals (take turns typing back and forth (if the communication is not complex)).

Reasonable accommodations when requested: The Town must reasonably modify its policies, practices, or procedures to ensure access and equal opportunity to individuals with disabilities.


  • A county general relief program provides emergency food, shelter, and cash grants to individuals who can demonstrate their eligibility. The application process, however, is extremely lengthy and complex. When many individuals with mental disabilities apply for benefits, they are unable to complete the application process successfully. As a result, they are effectively denied benefits to which they are otherwise entitled. In this case, the county has an obligation to make reasonable modifications to its application process to ensure that otherwise eligible individuals are not denied needed benefits. Modifications to the relief program might include simplifying the application process or providing applicants who have mental disabilities with individualized assistance to complete the process.
  • A person is required to appear in traffic court for a morning appointment. However, because of the person’s disability, or the medication that she is on to manage her disability, she is unable to make a morning appointment. The court would have an obligation to provide her with a court appointment that she would be able to attend.
  • Other examples include allowing a person with a mobility impairment to sit down while “waiting in line,” or simply being more patient with a person who takes longer to express himself or be understood, because of a disability.

Integrated setting (“mainstreaming”): Individuals with disabilities cannot be excluded from regular programs or required to accept accommodations. However, the Town may offer separate or special programs when necessary to provide people with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from the programs.


  • A recreation department sponsors a separate basketball team for wheelchair users.
  • A museum offers a tour for blind people which permits them to touch and handle specific objects on a limited basis (but cannot exclude a blind person from the standard tour).(5) Eligibility criteria and medical inquiries: The Town’s eligibility criteria for participation in its programs, services, or activities must not screen out or tend to screen out people with disabilities, except in rare instances when such requirements are necessary. A program cannot request medical information unless it can demonstrate that each piece of information requested is needed to ensure safe participation in the program

Safety: The Town may impose legitimate safety requirements necessary for the safe operation of its services, programs, and activities. Safety requirements must be based on real risks, not on speculation, stereotypes, or generalizations about people with disabilities.

No Surcharges: Although providing accommodations may result in some additional cost, the Town may not place a surcharge only on particular individuals with disabilities to cover expenses. For example, there can be no extra program charge to a deaf person for interpreter services, or to groups of people with disabilities, but fees may be increased for all participants to cover the cost of those accommodations.

Maintenance of accessible features: The Town must ensure that equipment and accessibility features of facilities are in good working order and accessible to individuals with disabilities. Isolated or temporary interruptions in access due to maintenance and repair of accessible features are acceptable.

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