Professional Practices Dept., American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 10801 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD 20852
The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) is significant not only as landmark civil rights legislation, but also because it is a turning point in public policy regarding the importance of communication and communication access. In the past, accessibility policy has focused on physical/mobility concerns and largely ignored needs related to sensory/cognitive impairments. More than 34 million Americans of all ages---approximately one of every ten people---have hearing, speech, and/or cognitive language impairments that affect their ability to work, learn in school, and participate in everyday activities. ADA regulations address communication access in employment, community programs and businesses, transportation, and telecommunications. Strategies for communication access and employment accommodations vary with the individual/disability and the type of activity/business. Most individuals need strategies that optimize auditory and visual information exchange, including improvements in environmental conditions (such as reduced ambient noise levels). New approaches and rethinking are needed regarding (1) assessing communication (dis)ability and needs, (2) the concept of accessibility, and (3) the role of professionals, including interdisciplinary collaborative efforts, in ADA implementation.