# 178 II-1.2000 II-7.1000 III-1.2000 III-4.


December 13, 1995

The Honorable Trent Lott United States Senate 487 Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. 20510-2403 Dear Senator Lott: I am responding to your letter on behalf of your constituent, XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX, regarding requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). According to Mr. XXXXXXXX' letter, he is an attorney representing an individual who is deaf in a trial about a speeding ticket. The court has informed him that he must provide an interpreter for his client during the trial. Mr. XXXXXXXX proposes to use a 15-year-old who has a deaf parent as the interpreter. Title III of the ADA prohibits people who own or operate places of public accommodation, such as attorneys, from discriminating on the basis of disability in the provision of their services. In addition, title II of the ADA prohibits State and local government entities, such as courts, from discriminating on the basis of disability in their programs, services, and activities. Both title II and title III require covered entities to ensure effective communication with the participants in their programs or services, including participants with hearing impairments, unless doing so would cause a fundamental alteration of the program or service or would result in an undue burden. 28 C.F.R. ​ 35.160-164; 28 C.F.R. 36.303. Therefore, unless it would cause a fundamental alteration or undue burden, Mr. XXXXXXXX must provide necessary auxiliary aids, including, if necessary, qualified sign language interpreters to ensure effective communication in his out-of-court communications with his client. In-court communications, however, fall within the jurisdiction of the court and, therefore, are covered by title II. The court must ensure effective communication through

appropriate auxiliary aids, including, if necessary, qualified sign language interpreters, for such in-court proceedings, unless to do so would cause a fundamental alteration or undue burden. A sign language interpreter is not a necessary auxiliary aid in all situations. In some contexts, other auxiliary aids may be adequate. In determining what constitutes an effective auxiliary aid or service, covered entities must consider, among other things, the length and complexity of the communication involved. A note pad and written materials may be sufficient means for short, uncomplicated communications. Where, however, the information to be conveyed is lengthy or complex, the use of handwritten notes may be inadequate and the use of an interpreter may be the only effective form of communication. Use of interpreter services is not necessarily limited to the most extreme situations. The enclosed Technical Assistance Manuals address this issue at II-7.1000 and III-4.3200. In order to satisfy the effective communication requirement of the ADA, any sign language interpreter that is provided must be qualified. Although an interpreter need not be certified, he or she must be able to effectively sign to the individual who is deaf what is being said by the hearing person and to effectively voice to the hearing person what is being signed by the individual who is deaf. The interpreter must be able to accomplish these communications effectively, accurately, and impartially. In some contexts, such as some legal proceedings, this may require knowledge of the applicable specialized vocabulary. I hope this information is helpful to you in responding to your constituent. Sincerely,

Deval L. Patrick Assistant Attorney General Civil Rights Division Enclosures