At North Carolina businesses, equal access must be provided to people with disabilities per the Americans with Disabilities Act. An interpreter fluent in sign language is one of the accessibility measures that may be taken by North Carolina businesses.

Many people wonder when the presence of a sign language interpreter is necessary in a North Carolina business. The correct response to this question is, “It depends.” The ADA mandates that companies must make sign language interpreters available to customers when efficient communication with a customer who is deaf or hard of hearing is needed. You may need to do this during meetings, consultations, or other activities linked to your North Carolina business.

In this post, we will explore the circumstances under which a company is required to offer a sign language interpreter, as well as the methods for determining whether or not you require one and the repercussions of failing to comply.

Understanding Communication Requirements

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a piece of federal legislation that, among other things, makes it illegal to discriminate against anyone with physical or mental impairments.

Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing are entitled to effective communication options under the ADA. This law mandates that companies and nonprofit organizations serving the general public must make reasonable accommodations for people with impairments. These companies and organizations are defined under Title II of the ADA.

When determining the appropriate assistance or service, covered North Carolina businesses must consider several things. If compliance is not maintained, there may be legal repercussions, including adverse effects on the entity’s business license and accreditation and significant financial fines.

File:Wikimedia Mexico - Outreach class for deaf children
Wikimedia Mexico – Outreach class for deaf children” by ProtoplasmaKid is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Where ASL Interpreting is Necessary

The medical industry, where sign language interpreting services are frequently required, is one particularly significant area covered by the ADA. For instance, hospitals must offer patients, family members, and other hospital visitors who may have hearing impairments an appropriate communication channel. This holds true for every hospital department, including the emergency room and gift store.

A written note may be a useful means of communication in some circumstances, according to the ADA, but if a dialogue is more complex, such as when describing a patient’s symptoms or a medical procedure, a competent ASL interpreter is required.

The ADA encompasses sectors including the legal, educational, law enforcement, and employment systems in addition to medical places. For instance, a corporation must offer sign language interpretation if a deaf candidate is being interviewed. Similarly, hearing-impaired defendants in a court case must be given access to an interpreter.

The ADA even covers the hotel sector. For instance, hotels must accommodate the communication needs of hard-of-hearing guests by making teletypewriters available in guest rooms upon request and by keeping one on hand at the front desk.

Are Sign Language Interpreters Required

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, North Carolina companies that are regarded as public accommodations must make reasonable adjustments to their policies, practices, and processes to offer equal access to people with disabilities. This may entail providing an interpreter for sign language, but other modes of communication may be more suitable depending on the circumstances.

The following are examples of some of these services:

  1. Telecommunications Relay Service, or TRS for short, is a service that enables people who have hearing or speech impairments to communicate with others through the use of an operator. The operator repeats the communication between the two parties in a back-and-forth format.
  2. A Video Relay Service is a service that, like the TTY Relay Service, enables people with hearing or speech impairments to communicate with a video link and an interpreter who uses sign language.
  3. Video Remote Interpreting is a service that allows users to communicate with a sign language interpreter through a video link established on a computer or mobile device.

Even while these choices are ultimately up to the proprietor of the North Carolina company, it is important to note that the outright refusal to offer accommodations or the provision of accommodations that are not acceptable, particularly in medical, educational, and professional offices, can be deemed a violation of the law and result in severe fines.

When is an ASL Interpreter Needed?

It can be hard to know when a sign language interpreter is needed. The Americans with Disabilities Act does not specifically say when one is needed. But North Carolina businesses can use a number of things to figure out when they need an interpreter, such as:

  1. The nature of the conversation and how long it lasts. Whether or not an ASL interpreter is needed depends on how long and complicated the conversation is. For example, you might be able to answer a short, simple question with handwritten notes, but you might need an interpreter for a long business meeting or show.
  2. How important communication is. How important communication is can also help decide if you need help with interpreting. If it is very important, like at a medical visit or a court case, an interpreter may be needed.
  3. The person’s needs for communication. The person’s communication needs should also be taken into account. Some deaf people prefer to use sign language to talk to each other, while others would rather write or speak.
  4. The availability of other communication tools. Finally, businesses should think about what other communication tools are available. For example, instead of a sign language interpreter, you could use closed captioning or real-time captions.

Final Thoughts

North Carolina businesses risk suffering significant repercussions if they do not meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and offer sign language interpreters. In addition to the risk of facing legal action, noncompliance can cause your company’s reputation to suffer, resulting in lost clients. In addition to that, there is a possibility that your company will be subject to fines and other penalties. Rather than risk being penalized for not complying, reach out to us at Unspoken Language Services for all of your ASL interpreting needs. Our professional interpreters strive to create an inclusive environment inside all North Carolina businesses by bridging the communication gap between the hearing and non-hearing worlds. 

Thumbnail Photo Credit to: “Sarah interprets for deaf ministry Centrepoint Church 240 Hamilton Rd Chermside P1070558” by John Robert McPherson is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.