ADA & A.T.:
What The Final Regulations Say (Title II)

By Robert R. Williams

This article is reprinted from the A.T. Quarterly, Volume 3, Number 1 (1992)

In the last A.T. Quarterly, we summarized the major requirements in the Americans with Disabilities Act's (ADA) Title I final regulations relating to the use of assistive technology by individuals with disabilities on the job [see ADA & AT: What the Final Regulations Say (Title I) ]. This will do the same for Title II Public Services provisions of the ADA and suggest assistive technology (AT) action steps for carrying out these key provisions effectively.


The U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) ADA Title II public services rules prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in all state and local public services by extending the nondiscrimination mandates of Section 504 to all state and local government public services entities regardless of whether they receive federal funds. The rules took effect on January 26, 1992.

Auxiliary Aids & Services: This term is an important one and is defined as including "a wide range of services and devices (necessary) for ensuring that equally effective communication" takes place with regard to persons with hearing, speech, and vision disabilities. It also contains a list of what these aids and services could include. However, the rules' guidelines points out that this is meant to be an illustrative rather than an "all inclusive or exhaustive catalogue" of what is possible.

The definition is meant to include state of the art devices and emerging technology. But state and local public services "are not required to use the newest or most advanced technologies as long as the auxiliary aid or service that is selected affords effective communication."

The definition also indicates that auxiliary aids and services can include "the acquisition or modification of equipment or devices" or "other similar services and actions," which might be required in order to afford someone with a hearing, speech, or vision disability with an "equally effective" opportunity to communicate with others in all aspects of state and local services. While most of the aids and services listed in the definition are ones which benefit those with hearing or vision disabilities, this and other provisions related to equally effective communication are extremely vital and directly applicable to individuals with speech disabilities of all ages as well.

A.T. Action Step: Offer information and assistance on ways in which a wide range of assistive technology can be used by state and local public services to effectively communicate with individuals with hearing, speech and vision disabilities. Remind states of their related obligation to purchase accessible electronic work equipment under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act as well.

DOJ does not view the use of some forms of emerging technology (e.g., voice recognition systems, automatic dialing telephones, infrared and other light control systems) as auxiliary aids or services needed for effective communication. But it does suggest that these devices might be viewed as a means of "making services, programs or activities accessible to, or usable by, individuals with mobility or manual dexterity impairments."

A.T. Action Step: Provide state and public services with practical, cost-effective examples of ways in which a wide range of assistive technology can be used in this manner. A possible example might include using voice recognition to activate a computerized public information service.

Maintenance of Accessible Features: This section requires an entity to maintain in operable working condition accessibility features to the maximum extent feasible. This is important because it ties maintenance to access requirements.

A.T. Action Step: Provide advice to state and local agencies on how to best maintain assistive devices and other accessibility features in top working condition.

Program Accessibility - Existing Buildings: This section requires that an entity "operate each service, program or activity" so that "when viewed in its entirety, (it) is accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities." Hence, an entity is not required to make all of its existing facilities barrier free. However, states and localities must make maximum efforts to achieve overall program accessibility, unless to do so would cause undue financial and administrative burdens.

A.T. Action Step: Advise public services on using assistive technology to make existing facilities accessible to those with disabilities (e.g., using portable ramps or inexpensive elevettes to make the exterior or interior of an existing facility accessible).

New Construction and Alterations: This section requires that each facility or part of a facility built on or after January 26, 1992, be designed and constructed to be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. Those renovated on or after the same date also must be altered to be readily accessible. Historic properties renovated on or after January 26, 1992 are to be altered to be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities to the maximum extent feasible.

A.T. Action Step: Share examples with public services on how assistive technology can be used to accomplish all three tasks (e.g., using infrared and/or voice-recognition in new or renovated buildings to permit easy access to elevators or telescopic devices to permit the viewing of historic landmarks that otherwise might be inaccessible to most).

Communications: This section requires public services "ensure that communications with applicants, participants and members of the public with disabilities are as effective as communications with others." As noted previously, it also requires public services to furnish auxiliary aids and services to persons with hearing, speech, and vision disabilities to ensure them an equally effective opportunity to communicate with others. In determining what kind of auxiliary aid and service is needed, the entity must "give primary consideration to the requests to have TTD's or equally effective telecommunications systems" to converse with applicants and beneficiaries with hearing and speech disabilities. Similarly, telephone emergency services-including 911 lines-must provide direct access to persons who use TTDs and computer modems.

A.T. Action Step: Make public services aware of how assistive technology can be best used to comply with this key requirement. Stress that universal communication access design is a critical concern of people with varying disabilities and all ages.

The A.T. Quarterly was a newsletter developed by the RESNA TA Project under a contract with the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), U.S. Department of Education (ED). The content, however, does not necessarily reflect the position or policy of NIDRR/ED and no official endorsement of the material should be inferred.

RESNA TA Project
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