Certain housing providers and other recipients of HUD funds must ensure effective communications for persons with disabilities.
Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, recipients of HUD financial assistance, state and local governments, health care facilities, group homes, assisted living facilities, colleges and universities, and housing rental and sales offices, among others, have the legal obligation to take appropriate steps to ensure effective communications with individuals with disabilities.
These organizations and individuals are required to take appropriate steps that may be necessary to ensure that communications with individuals with disabilities are as effective as communications with individuals without disabilities. Effective communication is generally provided through the use of appropriate auxiliary aids and services, such as interpreters, computer-assisted real time transcription (CART), captioned videos with audible video description, visual alarm devices, a talking thermostat, accessible electronic communications and websites, documents in alternative formats (e.g., Braille, large print), or assistance in reading or completing a form, etc.
This requirement applies to all oral, written, audible, visual, and electronic communications, including letters, notices, emails, social media, internet websites, forms, leases, rules, and other written documents and electronic media, as well as oral communications that occur in person, over the telephone, over the internet, and in interviews, meetings, training classes, hearings, and public presentations, when communicating with an individual with a disability or when such communications are expected.
Under the effective communication requirement, steps must be taken to ensure that communications are provided in the most integrated setting appropriate for the individual with a disability. It is also necessary to give primary consideration to the means of communication preferred by the individual with a disability.
The following are examples of some common circumstances where an organization or individual will need to provide effective communication:
Example: Recipients of HUD financial assistance and other housing providers must accept telephone relay calls and video relay calls from individuals with hearing and speech disabilities. Telephone and video relay services are provided to facilitate communication between people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have speech impairments and people without hearing impairments. These services are provided free of charge under federal law and can be accessed by calling 711.
Example: An assisted housing provider must provide written materials in the format preferred by individuals who are blind or have low vision, including braille, large print, audio recording, an accessible electronic format such as MS Word, etc.
Example: A CDBG recipient must ensure effective communications at public hearings by providing sign language interpreters, computer-assisted real time transcription (CART), and assistive listening devices when requested by individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing and must provide all written materials in accessible formats for persons who are blind or have low vision.
Example: A public housing agency must provide a sign language interpreter for an interview, meeting, or hearing with a deaf individual applying for public housing. Under the applicable laws, it is inappropriate for the agency to ask the deaf person’s companion or child to serve as an interpreter.
Example: An assisted housing provider that is sponsoring a job skills training for residents of a development must provide a sign language interpreter to afford equal access to a resident who is deaf. An assisted housing provider that is sponsoring computer learning for residents must ensure access to the computer learning program for individuals who are blind.
Example: An assisted housing provider may be required to provide a talking thermostat for a resident who is blind or has low vision; tactile markings on microwaves, laundry equipment, and vending machines so they can be used by residents who are blind or have low vision; or visual alarms for residents who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Example: A HUD grantee’s website must be accessible to individuals with disabilities, so text, images, buttons, and forms must be accessible to blind persons who use screen readers, individuals with low vision who rely on screen magnifiers, and deaf persons who require text captions to access the audible content of videos and individuals who are blind or have low vision who require video description to access the visual content of videos.
Important Note Regarding Accessible Electronic Information and Communications Technology: It is the policy of HUD that all electronic information and communications technology used in HUD-assisted programs must be accessible to individuals with disabilities. Section 504 and the ADA also require such electronic information and communications to be accessible to ensure effective communication. For specific requirements for accessible electronic information and communications technology, please see HUD’s policy implementing Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.
Note about the Fair Housing Act: The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal for housing providers to refuse to make reasonable accommodations, including taking steps that may be necessary to ensure effective communications with individuals with disabilities. For additional information, visit Reasonable Accommodations and Modifications.