If you have attended any of the national Independent Living events — and hopefully state and local ones as well — you have heard the term “accessible formats” as in, “you must request accessible formats in advance”. If you are one of the people who uses an accessible format, you probably know what it is, at least to you. “Accessible formats” matter to your CIL or SILC because you are required to provide materials and services that are equally accessible to all, including consumers but also board members and employees. How are you providing equal access to all?
Here is what the Department of Justice says in its overview of effective communication found at https://www.ada.gov/effective-comm.htm “People who have vision, hearing, or speech disabilities (“communication disabilities”) use different ways to communicate. For example, people who are blind may give and receive information audibly rather than in writing and people who are deaf may give and receive information through writing or sign language rather than through speech. “
At its heart, this requirement assures that written and spoken information is available in a format that can be understood by those who cannot access all written or spoken words. A person with a vision impairment may prefer Braille, or may want large print or a document that can be read aloud through a computer. A person who is deaf may need a captioner or a sign language interpreter to understand the presentation and to ask questions during a presentation.
The ADA calls these “auxiliary aids and services,” a wide variety of technologies including: 1) assistive listening systems and devices; 2) open captioning, closed captioning, real-time captioning, and closed caption decoders and devices; 3) telephone handset amplifiers, hearing-aid compatible telephones, text telephones (TTYs) , videophones, captioned telephones, and other voice, text, and video-based telecommunications products; 4) videotext displays; 5) screen reader software, magnification software, and optical readers; 6) video description and secondary auditory programming (SAP) devices that pick up video-described audio feeds for television programs; 7) accessibility features in electronic documents and other electronic and information technology that is accessible (either independently or through assistive technology such as screen readers) .
The key to communicating effectively is to consider the nature, length, complexity, and context of the communication and the person’s normal method(s) of communication. There is not one method of communication, but many. Take time to read the full bulletin on effective communication.
– Paula McElwee