Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Young girl using braille on playground

Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Deaf or hard of hearing individuals have the right to effective communication with government, businesses, and employers. We help individuals with disabilities resolve a wide range of accessibility and accommodation issues including access to communication for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Know Your Rights

Deaf or hard of hearing individuals have the right to effective communication with government, businesses, and employers.

What is effective communication?

Effective communication is different for different people and situations. The important thing to  remember is that you have a right to communicate as effectively as people who hear.

Some examples of “effective communication” include:

  1. ASL Interpreter
  2. Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) Reporter
  3. Oral interpreter
  4. Back and forth written communication
  5.  “Auxiliary aids” such as note takers, video remote interpreting, assistive listening devices or video text displays.

The Law

When do interpreters or CART reporters have to be provided?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Federal Rehabilitation Act, NH’s Human Rights Act, and NH laws concerning court proceedings generally require that a deaf or hard of hearing person has a right to effective communication with government, businesses, and employers.

Who must provide and pay for the interpreter or CART Reporter?

At Work:

Most employers must do what is necessary for effective communication unless it would cause an undue burden. The law applies to all employers that have 15 employees or more or receive government funding or are operated by the government.

  • Example: An employer usually needs to provide an interpreter for a job interview or staff training, but usually does not have to provide an interpreter for you to be able to do your job

At Government Agencies:

An interpreter may not need to be provided for basic communication, but may be necessary for an appointment or event, such as scheduled meetings or official gatherings. This rule applies to schools, town governments, state offices and services, mental health centers and area agencies.

At Businesses and nonprofit agencies that serve the public:

If you need a CART reporter or interpreter for effective communication, public entities must provide it. This rule includes hospitals, doctors and lawyers, restaurants, hotels, day care centers, car dealers and stores. However, if the organization can show that an interpreter would be an undue burden, it may not have to provide one.

  • Example: An interpreter probably needs to be provided for complicated or long meetings, or serious matters. An interpreter probably does not need to be provided for simple communication with a deaf customer.

What is an “Undue Burden?”

An undue burden means that it would be too expensive or hard to provide an interpreter. It could also mean that providing communication would cause a major change to a group’s business operations. This decision is partly based on the size of the organization: big companies can afford to provide more services than smaller companies.

NH has special rules for formal proceedings

You have the right to an interpreter or a CART if you are a party to activities involving State and local courts, departments, boards, commissions or licensing authorities (RSA 521-A:2).

NH also has rules for being involved with the police

You have a right to an interpreter or CART Reporter if you need one when being questioned by the police, if you have been arrested for a criminal violation (including fines over $100.00 or imprisonment). The police may also have to provide an interpreter in other situations if you need one for effective assistance (RSA 521:A:3).

Information and Resources

Relay New Hampshire: A free service for all New Hampshire residents, connecting individuals who are deaf, deafblind, hard-of-hearing, or have a speech disability with users of standard telephones. Relay NH is available in English and Spanish.

Information About Filing Complaints

If you think your rights have been violated, you can contact us to speak with an attorney free of charge or you can file a complaint with one of the entities below:

For complaints about government, businesses, and employers: NH Commission for Human Rights

For complaints about employment: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

For complaints against places which accommodate the public or state or local government agencies: U.S. Department of Justice Office on the ADA, Civil Rights Division

Client Stories

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If You Need Help

Contact us if you have a question about or problem with access and/or accommodations or if you wish to speak with an attorney about a disability-related legal issue.

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