Keyboard access

Keys to communication

By CINDY POWELL

People with disabilities that affect hearing, seeing, speaking, reading, writing or understanding might communicate differently than people who do not have disabilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that people with disabilities and their companions completely understand whatever is written or spoken.

The ADA also requires that people who do not have disabilities fully understand communication by people with disabilities and their companions.

“Auxiliary aids and services” enable effective communication for people with disabilities.

Here are a few examples:

Accessible electronic and information technology eliminates barriers to information access by providing people with disabilities with equipment or systems. Assistive listening systems transmit sound directly to a person who is wearing a receiver (hearing aid, headphone, neck loop etc.).

Assistive listening systems reduce background noise while sending sound signals directly to the person’s ears.

Audio description describes visual images.

Braille is a system of raised dots that can be read by touch.

HeadsetCaptioned telephones connect to a trained operator who uses voice recognition technology to transcribe what is being said. Live captions of the conversation are displayed.

Communication boards assist individuals with limited or no verbal communication skills to express ideas or desires by pointing to letters, words, phrases or pictures.

Computer-aided transcription services (CART)  allow an operator to type what is said into a computer that displays the typed words on a screen. CART is frequently used by people who are deaf or hard of hearing and do not lip-read or use sign language.

Headsets have an ear piece that eliminates the need to hold a telephone receiver and a microphone that minimizes distractions. Headsets can also be used with voice recognition software.

Large print recommendations include 18 point Arial font with single spacing; left-justified; minimum number of pages, italics, bold, underlining,  parentheses and hyphenation at the ends of lines; heavy non-glossy paper.

Magnification software enlarges and enhances everything on computer screens.

Optical readers convert scanned images into digital information.

Qualified readers read specialized vocabulary effectively, accurately and impartially.

Qualified sign language interpreters use specialized vocabulary effectively, accurately and impartially, receptively and expressively, on-site or via video remote interpreting (VRI).

Screen reader software and speech synthesizers convert text to speech.

Telecommunications devices for deaf persons (TDDs or TTYs) are devices on which people can type and receive text messages.

Telephone handset amplifiers make conversations louder, clearer and easier to understand.

Video Relay Services (VRS) enables people who use sign language to communicate with voice telephone users through a relay service using video equipment and a telephone connection.

With Video Remote Interpreting (VRI), a sign language interpreter appears over high-speed Internet lines. VRI can provide immediate access to interpreting services twenty-four hours a day, seven days per week, and is ideal for emergencies and unplanned interactions.

When auxiliary aids and services are provided, people with disabilities are less likely to be excluded, denied services, segregated or otherwise treated differently than people who do not.

Cindy Powell is training and development specialist at Carmel Community Living Corporation. Carmel has provided quality community-based services to Coloradoans with disabilities and their families since 1969. She has provided direct and administrative services to people with disabilities since 1975. She  has also instructed specialized sign language courses since 1979. As a disability program navigator, she received the International Association of Workforce Professionals’ 2006 Services to Specialized Populations award. Her disability articles are published online and in print. 

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