Justice Department Reaches Agreement with the Philadelphia Police Department to Ensure Effective Communication for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Individuals
NOTE: The settlement agreement can be found here.
The Justice Department today reached a settlement agreement with the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) to resolve allegations that it violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by denying deaf and hard of hearing individuals full and equal opportunities to participate in and benefit from PPD’s programs, services, and activities. Specifically, the Department alleged that PPD did not take appropriate steps to ensure that communications with deaf and hard of hearing individuals were as effective as communications with others, and did not provide auxiliary aids and services that were necessary to ensure the provision of effective communication.
The Department initiated an investigation in response to a complaint that PPD had not provided effective communication to a deaf detainee. In the course of its investigation, the Department interviewed a number of deaf individuals—ranging from detainees to crime victims—who contended that PPD denied them effective communication. The Department also interviewed PPD representatives and reviewed PPD’s policies and practices relating to the provision of auxiliary aids and services to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. Based on the investigation, the Department determined that PPD had not met its obligations to provide effective communication as required by the ADA.
“Deaf and hard of hearing individuals are entitled to full and equal opportunities to communicate with police officers and to benefit from police services,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore. “We commend the Philadelphia Police Department, which is taking steps to ensure that Philadelphia’s deaf and hard of hearing community members are provided effective communication and auxiliary services.”
The ADA mandates that public entities, such as PPD, take appropriate steps to ensure that communications with people with disabilities are as effective as communications with others. In meeting the effective communication obligation, public entities are not required to take any action that would result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of their service, program or activity or in undue financial and administrative burdens.
PPD represents that since the Department’s investigation, it has been steadfast in its efforts to improve its provision of effective communication. PPD has developed comprehensive ADA policies and practices, including policies that help law enforcement personnel understand how to secure appropriate auxiliary aids and services for deaf and hard of hearing individuals. PPD has also developed a comprehensive training program to educate its personnel on the ADA’s effective communication obligation. PPD further asserts that it is ensuring reliable access to American Sign Language interpreters.
Under the three-year agreement, PPD will adopt ADA policies and procedures on effective communication and appropriate auxiliary aids or services, train personnel on the ADA, provide accessible telephone equipment, and pay eight aggrieved individuals a total of $97,500.
Those interested in finding out more about this settlement or the ADA may call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA information line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TDD), or access its ADA website at www.ada.gov. ADA complaints may be filed online at http://www.ada.gov/complaint/.