Ensuring Your Language Initiatives Are ADA Compliant

Complying with federal law is a part of the business. Whether it’s taxes, copyright, transportation, or the employer-employee relationship, companies of all sizes must understand and comply with federal laws impacting businesses. And language services aren’t exempt.

Specific to the language access initiatives, employers must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other federal laws related to disability. According to the World Bank, “one billion people, or 15 percent of the world’s population, experience some form of disability, and disability prevalence is higher for developing countries.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in four adults lives with a disability, including those affecting cognition, hearing, and vision.

Through language services, you want to provide meaningful, equal access to documents, products, and services, meeting all of your clients’ needs, and complying with applicable laws. Read on to learn what you need to know in order to comply with the ADA, in addition to other federal laws.

Translation and ADA Compliance: What’s the Law?

Federal disability laws often seem to overlap. Here, we’ll break down two disability laws applying to translation services, helping to create a roadmap for your future compliance.

The ADA, which was signed into law in 1990, “prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in several areas, including employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications and access to state and local government programs and services.”

The ADA requires that state and local governments, as well as businesses and nonprofit organizations, must “communicate effectively with people who have communication disabilities. The goal is to ensure that communication with people with these disabilities is equally effective as communication with people without disabilities.”

Communication disabilities include vision, hearing, or speech disabilities. The ADA gives this example: “[P]eople who are blind may give and receive information audibly rather than in writing and people who are deaf may give and receive information through writing or sign language rather than through speech.”

On the other hand, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires all federal agencies to maintain communications in an accessible format, including electronic information, web pages, and other digital content, including those accessed through mobile devices or smartphones. Additionally, all communications formats include Word, pdf, audio, video, and PowerPoint files.

Section 508 is much narrower than the ADA, as it only applies to federal agencies, where the ADA applies to state and local governments as well as businesses and nonprofit organizations. Taken together, however, both the ADA and Section 508 ensure that all people, including those with communication disabilities, have meaningful and equal access to information.

How Can You Ensure Your Content Is ADA-Compliant?

Depending on your business, your language strategy, and your audience, different options exist, helping you provide ADA-compliant language services and ensuring equal access to all. But, again, your focus is on providing meaningful access to information for those with communication disabilities.

Below, we’ve provided some key points that you can use to check your current language services against the ADA’s requirements, allowing you to revise and update as needed.

  • Businesses that must comply with ADA regulations are required to “provide auxiliary aids and services when needed to communicate effectively with people who have communication disabilities.” This includes the disabled person as well as their parents, spouse, children, or another companion.
  • To develop effective language access services, you must consider the recipient’s usual method of communication as well as the “nature, length, complexity, and context of the communication.”

Examples of ADA-Compliant Services

Here are some specific examples from the ADA, giving further insight into the above:

  • Not all deaf individuals use sign language. A person who has lost hearing due to aging may not use sign language but will need access to information keeping this disability in mind.
  • The same goes for Braille. Not all vision-impaired individuals can read Braille. Thus, you may need to use other accessible translation options such as formats that can be “accessed by the person’s screen reader program.”

What Are the Formats You Need to Consider?

To give more detail to auxiliary aids and services for effective translation services for those with communication disabilities, let’s look at four ADA-compliant formats you need to consider.

Braille

For individuals who are blind or have vision loss, you should consider implementing braille document formats. By taking the source text and converting it to Braille, you can give informational access to those with vision disabilities. Additionally, don’t forget to embed charts, graphs, or photos. One way to do this for Braille is to add descriptors to any charts, graphs, or pictures, allowing the readers to access the full text.

Of course, you also want to follow industry best practices by making sure that you follow the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) standards and the United English Braille (UEB) code.

Large Print

Another option for providing accessible documents to the visually impaired is through large print. You can reduce the reader’s eye strain by offering large print translations while optimizing the text size for those with poor eyesight.

Audio

For those with vision or hearing loss disabilities, you can provide audio solutions to comply with the ADA. This can come in many forms, such as qualified interpreters through video remote interpreting (VRI), assistive listening devices or systems, voice-based telecommunications systems, qualified readers, taped texts, or audio recordings.

American Sign Language

A fourth language access solution is American Sign Language (ASL) for the deaf or hearing-impaired community. To comply with the ADA, you’ll need to engage qualified ASL experts or oral interpreters, depending on your needs.

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. Other language access options can satisfy the ADA statutes and regulations, such as real-time captioning, qualified interpreters, video relay service, telephone handset amplifiers, text telephones (TTYs), magnification software, and tactile interpreters.

Next Steps

As an ADA-compliant solution is required for most organizations and across all domains, it’s crucial to align yourself with an experienced LSP who can ensure your ADA compliance, especially in an ever-evolving regulatory environment.
Have questions on how an LSP can benefit your organization?  Get in touch with us today.