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Laws and 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. The access provided must meet the person's needs and how they communicate. For best results, ask the person who is deaf, deafblind or hard of hearing if they need a sign language interpreter, an assistive listening device, real-time captioning or other accommodations. 


The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund provides a summary of the ADA, IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 in plain language that shows how they overlap and how they are different. 

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. There are three sections that cover communication access.

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. Places that are open to the public 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) 

For more information about Titles I-V of the ADA, 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. 

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

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a civil rights law that 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 is a civil rights law that 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) 
Email the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights

The U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights Chicago Office serves Minnesota:
John C. Kluczynski Federal Building
230 S. Dearborn Street, 37th Floor
Chicago, IL 60604
312-730-1560 (voice)
800-877-8339 (TTY)
Email the Chicago Office for Civil Rights

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

Minnesota Human Rights Act 

The Minnesota Human Rights Act 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.

Minnesota Department of Human Rights 
800-657-3704 or
651-296-5663 (voice)
651-296-1283 (TTY)
Email the Minnesota Department of Human Rights

Learn more

The ADA and hearing loss. A male interpreter wearing a light blue button down shirt signs the word INTERPRET.

The ADA and hearing loss

The Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division developed this fact sheet on how ADA applies to people with hearing loss in employment settings, accessing state and local government services, and in public spaces.
Assistive technology for employers with picture of woman in business suit wearing hearing aid and looking at cellphone

Assistive technology for employers

Assistive technology can be a useful tool to help improve communication and productivity in the workplace. This fact sheet describes certain types of assistive technology available to businesses that employ people who are deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing.
Workplace communication access for employers. A Black woman wearing a blue blazer is smiling at the camera.

Workplace communication access for employers

Hearing loss can make it difficult to understand speech at work. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other federal and state laws protect employees’ right to communication access at work, and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations. This fact sheet helps employers and employees learn about possible accommodations for employees with hearing loss.
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