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Legal obligation to provide communication access

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other laws require governments, businesses and nonprofit organizations to provide access to people who are deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing. For many deaf people, this means providing an American Sign Language/English interpreter. For others it may mean providing access through assistive listening devices, CART or other accommodations. 


Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 

The ADA is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. ADA Amendment Act (ADAAA) focuses on discrimination. It makes important changes to how disability is defined. 

Title I: Employment

Employers with 15 or more employees may not discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities. Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants or employees with disabilities, unless it causes an undue hardship. For more information about Title I, contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at 800-669-4000 (voice) or 800-669-6820 (TTY). 

Title II: State and local governments

Public entities may not discriminate against people with disabilities. Individuals with disabilities must not be excluded from participation in or be denied services, programs or activities of a public entity. 

Title III: Public accommodations 

Public accommodations may not discriminate against people with disabilities. Some examples of public accommodations include:

  • Restaurants 
  • Hotels 
  • Theaters 
  • Doctor's offices 
  • Retail stores
  • Museums
  • Libraries
  • Parks
  • Private schools
  • Day care centers 
  • and more 

For more information about Titles II and III of the ADA, contact:

U.S. Department of Justice
800-514-0301 (voice)
800-514-0383 (TTY) 

More information about Titles I-V, contact: 

Great Lakes ADA Center
800-949-4232 (voice/TTY) 

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 

IDEA is a federal law that protects the rights of students with disabilities to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE). 

The Minnesota Department of Education, Special Education has information on parents' rights.

Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 

This civil rights law requires federal contractors and subcontractors with government contracts in excess of $10,000 to take affirmative action to employ and advance qualified individuals with disabilities.  

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 

This civil rights law states that people with disabilities cannot be excluded from, be denied access to or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity that receives Federal financial assistance. 

More information:
U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights
800-421-3481 (voice)
877-521-2172 (TTY)

The U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights Chicago Office serves Minnesota:

Chicago Office
Office for Civil Rights
U.S. Department of Education
John C. Kluczynski Federal Building
230 S. Dearborn Street, 37th Floor
Chicago, IL 60604

312-730-1560 (voice)
800-877-8339 (TTY)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights
800-527-7697 (V/TTY) 

The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund provides a summary of the ADA, IDEA and Section 504 in plain language that shows how they overlap and how they are different. 

Minnesota Human Rights Act 

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights prohibits discrimination due to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, disability and age in connection with employment, housing, public accommodations, public services and education.

800-657-3704 or
651-296-5663 (voice)
651-296-1283 (TTY)

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