State and Local Government Services

Deaf and hard of hearing people have the right to have effective communication with state and local government agencies.  Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination by any state or local government agency (or public entity) — it applies to all types of state and local government agencies, including courts, schools, social service agencies, hospitals, legislatures, commissions and councils, recreational facilities, libraries, and state/county/city departments and other state or local agencies.  It applies to activities that are administered directly by state or local government agencies, and to activities that are carried out by private subcontractors.

Local and state agencies must give equal access and equally effective services to people with disabilities.  They can’t deny people an opportunity to participate in their programs or give an opportunity that is less than what is given to others.  Often, the public entity must provide qualified interpreters, computer-aided realtime transcription (also called CART), assistive listening devices, or other auxiliary aids or services to ensure effective communication with deaf and hard of hearing people.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) rules say that the public entity must make sure communications with people with disabilities are as effective as communications with others.  They must provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services to ensure the person with a disability has the same opportunities as others. The public entity may not charge the individual for providing auxiliary aids and services. The public entity must also try to honor the person’s accommodation choice.  

There are many types of auxiliary aids and services that may be necessary for effective communication, what works for one person might not be ideal for another person. The U.S. Department of Justice’s rules provides auxiliary aids and services definitions. The appropriate auxiliary aid or service depends on many factors, such the type of communication used by the person and the situation in which communication occurs.  An auxiliary aid or service that is appropriate for one person, or in one situation, may not work in a different setting or for a different person.

Public entities must also modify their policies and practices to prevent discrimination.  For example, a facility with a “no pets” requirement must change that requirement to allow a deaf or hard of hearing person to use a service animal.  Public entities must also accept telephone calls made through relay services.