The Tale of Two Titles: Title II and Title III

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Let’s talk about Title II and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

You probably know someone signed the ADA into law a bazillion years ago. (1990, to be exact.) You probably also know that the ADA says organizations aren’t allowed to discriminate against people with disabilities.

However, many people don’t understand the extent of the ADA’s coverage.

Book, glasses and smartphone sitting on a desktop with the words "The Tale of Two Titles" displayed

Most people know that buildings must provide access to people with physical limitations. For example, many buildings have ramps and at least one extra large bathroom stall. For decades, companies have taken action to remove physical barriers.

But, you may not know that Title II and Title III of the ADA cover the removal of communication barriers too. For instance, when the President addresses the nation, there’s usually someone in the corner of the screen signing for people with hearing disabilities. Other accommodations include braille on elevators, hotel room numbers, and restroom signs. 

Communication barriers

So, why is it important to remove communication barriers

Don’t people have friends and family who can summarize the President’s message or help people with disabilities to the bathroom?

The answer is more significant than “yes” or “no.” 

Very simply, no. Not everyone with a disability has someone who can help.

But, even when someone with a disability has people who can help, they don’t always want those people to know every detail of their life. Also, it’s a matter of personal freedom and independence. Most of us would rather tackle something on our own than rely on someone else for help. 

This is where removing communication barriers becomes so important. 

Our “Tale of Two Titles”

Based on a true story

Once upon a time, years ago–though the exact year isn’t necessary for this story–a young man began earning his own money. No longer solely reliant on allowance money, this man tasted the freedom of having disposable income. (That’s money that doesn’t have to go to bills.) 

Like many of us, when we got our first taste of financial freedom, he made poor choices with his disposable income.

When his first bank statement arrived, he realized he wouldn’t be able to read it. But, having some sense of financial responsibility, he knew he had to check his statement to ensure there weren’t any errors.

The young man took the statement to his mother so she could read it to him. His mother saw her son’s poor spending choices. This led to lectures and encounters that were less than pleasant. No young man wants their mom harping on their life choices.

Like most young people, he didn’t initially learn that he should spend his money wisely. Instead, he “learned” that he had to figure out another way to read his bank statement and not rely on his mother. 

The young man devised a brilliant plan to avert his mother’s scrutiny. He paid a high school student to read his bank statement to him. Genius! But inconvenient.

Thankfully, as he grew older, he became wiser and made better financial decisions. But, he still had to pay someone else to read his personal information to him. 

Bottom half of a person using a white cane to navigate a sidewalk

Enter Title II and Title III

News of the ADA brought hope. Soon he would be able to consume his personal information in a format he could read himself. 

It was a glorious day when the President signed the ADA into law.

Sadly, decades later, this man STILL isn’t able to get all of his information in a format he can read. Instead, he gets some of it in his preferred accessible format, braille, but relies on his spouse to read and take care of other aspects of their life.

This man is very capable of handling his life; he doesn’t need someone else to do it for him. Except, some companies and organizations still don’t take his disability into consideration.

At restaurants, he often orders a safe choice. Most restaurants have burgers or chicken of some kind. He doesn’t want to disturb everyone else by having the server or someone at the table read every menu option to him. 

When visiting his doctor, this man does his best to memorize everything he’s told. The doctor is happy to provide printouts for someone to read to him later, but that doesn’t help him. He wants to be responsible for his own health and not rely on someone else to read a poorly photocopied sheet of paper. 

When he finally receives the bill for what his insurance won’t cover, he asks his spouse to pay it. Unfortunately, the website isn’t accessible, so he’s unable to use assistive technology to pay his bill. 

Related: The Department of Justice Provides Guidance on Web Accessibility

Our tale’s end

The story of the communication barriers this man faces goes on far too long. Decades after that hope-giving piece of legislation was signed into law, his needs are still ignored.

This is the tale of two titles.

It’s not a happy tale, but it could be. 

Thankfully, it’s happier than it was decades ago. 

This man does get some of his personal information in braille. He just needs more information available in his preferred accessible format.

Embrace Title II and Title III of the ADA

Title II and Title III of the ADA aren’t a burden for organizations. Instead, they’re roadmaps for better inclusion so that organizations can reach and potentially help every person possible. 

You can make that difference within your organization and provide people with dignity and equality. 

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This post was written by Braille Works

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