Accommodations and Assistive Technology

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that places of public accommodation must provide persons who are deaf, deaf-blind or hard of hearing equal opportunities to participate in and benefit from their services by providing auxiliary aids and/ or services to ensure effective communication.

What about public places?

Places of public accommodation must change their policies when necessary to provide equal access to services and buildings.

Example: Allowing a customer to take a service animal into a business.

Note: Private clubs are not covered by the ADA, except to the extent the facilities of the private club are made available to customers or patrons of a place of public accommodation.

Places of public accommodation include over five million private establishments. This includes both profit and non-profit establishments regardless of their size.

Examples of places of public accommodations include:

Amusement parks


Private schools

Attorney/lawyer offices

Hotels, motels, inns

Recreational programs


Insurance agencies


Bowling alleys


Retail stores

Convention centers


Shopping centers

Day care centers


Social service agencies

Dentists' offices

Optometrists' offices


Doctors' offices



Dry cleaners



For a more comprehensive explanation of rights and laws pertaining to the deaf, deaf-blind or hard of hearing persons go to the Rights and Laws Web page

What are the different kinds of accommodations? What are the uses and ideal settings?

An accommodation is something that serves as a tool for effective communication. Depending on the content being discussed, the length of time, individuals involved, and the environment accommodations will vary. One way to maximize the use of effective accommodations is to ask the deaf, deaf-blind or hard of hearing individual what he/she prefers for a specific situation. What works best for them will work the best for you to receive the information you need as well!

*The list below is a sample of possible accommodations. The list is not all-inclusive.

Amplified Telephone

An amplified telephone strengthens the sound as it comes into the receiver.

  • Use: One-to-one telephone conversations, hard of hearing individuals

  • Benefits: Hearing aid/ cochlear implant compatible, reasonable cost

  • Barriers: Can only be used for verbal communication (no text), may not be compatible with existing telephone system

  • Equipment needed: amplified telephone model

  • Source/cost: obtain from specialty vendors with the cost ranging from $80-$400

Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs)

ALDs are amplification systems designed to help people hear better by improving signal-to-noise ratio. The speaker uses a microphone or transmitter and the listener uses either a hearing aid switch or a receiver compatible with the system.

Systems available:

  • Personal amplifiers (e.g. Pocketalker)

  • FM systems - transmit sound via radio waves

  • Infrared technology - transmit sound by invisible light beams

  • Induction loop technology - based on electromagnetics


  • One-to-one communication

  • Classroom/meeting use


  • Allows access for hearing aid or cochlear implant (CI) user


  • One system can be used by multiple individuals

  • Listener able to focus directly on sound source, thereby reducing distractions from background noise


  • Individual must have hearing aid/CI compatibility or use receiver provided with system

  • If multiple speakers, microphone must be passed

  • Possibly limited range

  • Infrared systems for indoor use only

Equipment needed:

  • Personal amplifier - not wireless

  • Portable FM, infrared, or loop systems

  • Large FM systems (installed)

  • Loop system (installed)

  • Infrared system (installed)


  • Obtain through specialty vendors

  • Costs can range from $150 for a personal amplifier to $2,000 for a large area system (plus installation costs)

Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART)

Real-Time captioning is the instant translation of the spoken word into English text. The text is projected onto a large screen or other display using a stenotype machine, notebook computer, and real-time software.


  • Small and large group meetings, conferences, trainings, workshops

  • Use when verbatim conversation is essential to effective communication

  • Primarily used by people who are hard of hearing and deaf who are fluent in English or do not use American Sign Language (ASL)


  • Word-for word translation

  • Skilled, professional providers


  • Scheduling in advance is necessary

  • Requires a provider trained in use of stenographic equipment

  • Relies on fluency in the written language used

Equipment needed:

  • LCD projector

  • Screen or other visual display

Note: Captionists usually provide their own steno machine and may provide a projector and/or display.


Service Fund: Need help to hire a CART specialist but do not have the money? ODHH might be able to help you!

Computer-assisted note taking

A typist participates in a group activity and acts as a note-taker, typing summaries of the communication while the person who is deaf or hard of hearing watches the computer monitor or looks at the text projected on a wall or screen.


  • Group meetings, conferences, trainings, workshops


  • Relatively inexpensive (compared to CART)

  • Does not require stenotype machine

  • Current qualified staff may be available as typists


  • Information is not word for word

  • Relies on fluency in the written language used

Equipment needed:

  • Laptop or personal computer

  • Word processing software

  • Possibly PC projector


  • Current qualified staff

  • Salary for existing staff

Computer Technology

E-mail, instant messaging (IM), and internet chat are all examples of current technology that can be used as means for communication.


  • One-to-one communication - take turns typing at same computer

  • Group communication, such as e-mail or instant messaging


  • E-mail is common in many environments

  • Access to multiple users


  • Relies on fluency in the written language used

  • May not be real-time communication

  • IM blocked by some systems

Equipment needed:

  • Computer terminal or laptop

  • Internet access

  • E-mail capability and/or messaging software


C-Print is a computer based speech-to-text system using a software application called C-Print Pro. Captionists are trained in text-condensing strategies and in using an abbreviation system requiring fewer keystrokes. The text can be displayed simultaneously to one or more individuals in different ways, including additional computers (laptops) or display monitors. Input can also be accomplished using voice.


  • Educational settings

  • Business and community settings

  • Professional development activities/workshops


  • Uses standard keyboarding (not steno machine)

  • Text can be displayed to multiple users simultaneously

  • Can be used interactively (captionist able to voice for deaf individual using C-Print)

  • Meaning-for meaning translation

  • Text can be printed out for reference

  • C-Print training available online


  • Relies on fluency in the written language used

  • Access to C-Print skill training may be limited

Equipment needed:

  • Laptop available for each user with software installed

  • Visual display (optional)

  • Carrying case (if applicable)

  • Automatic Speech Recognition software if voice input is used.


  • C-Print is developed and distributed by National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Rochester, New York

  • Cost considerations include hardware, software, captionist training

  • Wages of current staff trained in C-Print captioning

Handwritten Notes


  • Short and simple communications


  • Readily achievable

  • Inexpensive


  • Relies on fluency in the written language used

  • Not recommended for in-depth conversations or those with serious content

Equipment needed:

  • Pen/paper

  • Dry erase board

  • Chalkboard

  • Text device or computer

Sign Language Interpreters

Qualified sign language interpreters are trained professionals who can interpret into ASL and into spoken English. Qualified interpreters will also be familiar with any specialized vocabulary used during communication and be able to match the deaf consumer's signing mode and style.


  • One-to-one communication, e.g. interviews, workshops, seminars

  • Large or small groups


  • Communication is conducted in a language best understood by the deaf individual(s)


  • Interpreter availability may be limited in some areas

  • Qualifications vary

  • Can be difficult to secure with short notice

Equipment needed:

  • None (except for Video Remote Interpreting, VRI)


  • Fees will vary depending on qualifications-contact provider

  • Interpreter referral agency fees include administrative costs

  • ODHH Regional Offices maintain and distribute a list of area interpreters

  • Statewide list of individual interpreters (by county) and interpreter referral agencies

  • Consult with employee for interpreter preferences

Service Fund Need to hire a sign language interpreter but do not have the money? ODHH might be able to help you!


This is a method of text communication over the telephone either directly (TTY to TTY) or though Relay Service (TTY to Voice or Voice to TTY).


  • One-to-one communication via telephone

  • Face-to-face communication using turn taking on one device or using TTY trainer to connect two TTY devices without connection to telephone line


  • Persons who are deaf or speech impaired

  • May be a preferred accommodation for a person who is hard of hearing


  • Reasonable cost for TTY device(s)

  • Relay services are free (regular long-distance charges would apply if applicable)

  • Connects to regular phone line

  • Possible to have printout of conversation depending on TTY model used


  • Relies on fluency in the written language used

  • Must have TTY device or use Relay service

  • Takes up space in work area

  • TTY print outs (if applicable) can be used in court as evidence

Equipment needed:

  • TTY device(s) or software program to use persona computer as TTY


  • Obtain through specialty vendors

  • Costs range from about $200 to about $900 (depending on equipment features)

  • Accessories available for most models


A videophone is a stand alone video telephone (no computer required) that enables users to video conference using an Ethernet network cable, broadband cable, DSL, or Ethernet Internet connection. A monitor can be a standard television. Videophone users can make direct calls to one another using American Sign Language or can call through a Video Relay Service (VRS) which connects to a sign language interpreter.


  • One-to-one communication

  • Conference calls with multiple participants are possible, depending on access to equipment available


  • No computer required

  • Communication between hearing and deaf can be conducted in a language best understood by each individual

  • Works with phone signalers for flashing lamp notification


  • Calls made through VRS must be between two different telephone numbers (users cannot be adjoining workspaces or in the same room)

  • Internet connection required

Equipment needed:

  • High speed internet connection

  • Videophone

  • Monitor, i.e. standard television


  • Monthly internet fees

  • Videophone equipment may be provided for free to users who are deaf

Internet services

Video Remote Interpreting (VRI)

VRI is the use of video-conferencing equipment that provides sign language interpreting services from a remote site. VRI is set up with the deaf and hearing persons in the same room and the interpreter at a call center, possibly in another city.


  • One-to-one communication

  • Group meetings/conferences


  • Potential cost-savings - billing is for interpreter service only, no charges for indirect billable activities, such as travel time and expenses or administrative service coordination

  • 24 hour interpreter access

  • Available in rural/remote areas where physical interpreter may be difficult to find

  • Professionally trained - most will hold national certification.

  • Meets consumer/client preference for communication accommodation


  • Requires access to video-conferencing equipment

  • May not be as effective in very large conference/workshop situations

Equipment needed:

  • DSL/high-speed internet access

  • Video-conferencing equipment


  • Fees for interpreting services vary - consult provider

  • Cost of securing video-conferencing equipment

Video Relay Service (VRS)

Free relay service enables anyone to conduct video relay calls with family, friends, or business associates through certified ASL interpreters via a high-speed internet connection and a videophone.


  • One-to-one communication


  • Free (used through internet relay service providers)

  • Communication is conducted in a language best understood by both parties

  • Relay services are available 24/7


  • Specialized equipment and internet access required

  • Cannot be used for persons in the same room or adjoining workspaces (FCC regulations require calls are placed between two separate phone numbers)

Equipment needed:

  • Videophone or webcam for deaf user

  • Hearing user can use a regular telephone


  • Various VRS providers, e.g. Sorenson VRS, Hamilton Relay, VRS, Purple, Sprint

  • No cost to use service

* Tax credits and deductions for ADA accommodations may be available for eligible businesses through the IRS. Consult with a business tax expert.

Accommodations/Assistive Technology Resources

American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
HEAR Wisconsin (formally known as Center for Communication, Hearing and Deafness, CCHD)
Comfort Audio (CA)
E-Michigan Deaf and Hard of Hearing People (MICHDHH)
National Association of the Deaf (NAD)
Wisconsin Assistive Technology Resource Center (WATRC)

    Last Revised: July 19, 2017