Department of Justice Civil Rights Division MAY 6 1993 The Honorable Amo Houghton Member, United States House of Representatives P.O. Box 908 Jamestown, New York 14702-0908 Dear Congressman Houghton: This letter is in response to your inquiry on behalf of your constituent, XXXXXXXX requesting information on the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that relate to the needs of individuals who are deaf or have hearing impairments. The ADA authorizes the Department of Justice to provide technical assistance to individuals and entities that are subject to the Act. This letter provides informal guidance to assist you in responding to your constituent. However, this technical assistance does not constitute a determination by the Department of Justice of your constituent's rights or responsibilities under the ADA and does not constitute a binding determination by the Department of Justice. Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities by State and local governmental entities. Section 35.160 (a) of this Department regulation implementing title II (copy enclosed) specifically requires such entities to ensure that their communication with individuals with disabilities is as effective as communication with others. To accomplish this goal, public entities are required to furnish appropriate auxiliary aids and services (such as sign language interpreters) , and to give primary consideration to the requests of individuals with disabilities in the selection of such aids and services. See section 35.160(b) of the title II

-2regulation, as discussed on pages 35 through 37 of the enclosed title II Technical Assistance Manual. The ADA does not, however, require a public entity to take any measures that would result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of its programs, services, or activities or in undue financial and administrative burdens. See section 35.164 of the title II regulation. If effective communication can be accomplished through other methods, title II does not require, as your constituent seems to assume, that all existing public facilities be equipped with special sound systems. Newly constructed or altered facilities are, however, subject to requirements related to assistive listening systems. At present, public entities have a choice of following the requirements for such systems set forth in either the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) or in the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (Guidelines), which are located at Appendix A to this Department's title III regulation (copies enclosed). Please note, however, that the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board has issued a proposed regulation that would amend the Guidelines to include standards applicable to a variety of title II facilities. It is anticipated that the Department of Justice will, after notice and comment, adopt the proposed amendment as the standard for title II entities. At such time, title II entities will be required to use the revised Guidelines for new construction and alterations, and will no longer have the option of following UFAS. With respect to sign language interpreters, the ADA only requires the use of interpreters when necessary to ensure effective communication. Therefore, interpreters are not required to be present at all meetings of a governmental entity. If, for example, an individual with a hearing impairment prefers to use an assistive listening system, an interpreter would not be required. It is important, however, for each governmental entity to establish efficient procedures for obtaining interpreter services when needed, because, as your constituent points out, the supply of interpreters within a given geographic area may be limited. The cost of all assistive listening systems, interpreters, and any other expenses required to meet ADA requirements are the

responsibility of the State or local government and may not be passed along to any individual or group of individuals with disabilities. (The ADA does not, however, require such entities to purchase personal aids and devices such as hearing aids.) See sections 35,130(f) and 35.135 of the title II regulation. ----------------------------------------------3 We appreciate your constituent's comments regarding the importance of good lighting and good speech-making practices. Although these issues are beyond the scope of our regulations, we will certainly keep them in mind in our future technical assistance efforts. I hope this information will be useful to your constituent. Sincerely, James P. Turner Acting Assistant Attorney General Civil Rights Division Enclosures (3)