OBLIGATIONS OF AIRPORTS TO
PROVIDE COMMUNICATION ACCESSIBILITY TO DEAF AND HARD OF
Thank you for your interest in the obligations of airports
to provide communication accessibility to deaf and hard of
Airports operated by public entities
are required by two federal laws to render communication
accessibility to individuals with hearing impairments.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C.
794, requires federal financial recipients, including state
and local governments, to provide auxiliary aids to ensure
that services to deaf and hard of hearing persons are equal
or equally effective to the services provided to persons
with normal hearing. This obligation now applies to "all of
the operations" of any state or local government which
receives any form of federal financial assistance, under the
Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 (P.L. 100-259),
codified at 29 U.S.C. 794(b)(1)(A).
The mandates of Section 504 have now
been extended to all operations of public entities through
Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42
U.S.C. 12141 et seq. The U.S. Department of Justice has
issued a regulation to Title II of the ADA, 28 C.F.R. Part
35, and an Analysis thereto, 56 Fed. Reg. 35694 (July 26,
1991). Under the ADA and its regulation, as of January 26,
1992, all state and local government activities and
agencies, regardless of receipt of federal funds, will be
prohibited from discrimination based on
The ADA requires local and state
government entities, such as airports operated by the local
government, to provide auxiliary aids to ensure effective
communication with deaf and hard of hearing individuals. 28
C.F.R. Section 35.160. These auxiliary aids and services
must be provided except where they constitute an undue
burden, or fundamentally alter the public entity's program.
The Department of Justice regulation defines the term
auxiliary aid and service comprehensively:
interpreters, notetakers, computer-aided transcription
services, written materials, telephone handset
amplifiers, assistive listening devices, assistive
listening systems, telephones compatible with hearing
aids, closed caption decoders, open and closed
captioning, telecommunication devices for deaf persons
(TDD'), videotext displays, or other effective methods of
making aurally delivered materials available to
individuals with hearing impairments.
28 C.F.R. 35.104.
To achieve equal access in airports,
the most important auxiliary aids for deaf and hard of
hearing persons will be telephone services and videotext
PUBLIC TELEPHONE SERVICES
It is clear that telephones at
airports must be hearing aid compatible. The
Telecommunications for the Disabled Act required that coin
operated telephones, and other essential telephones, be
hearing aid compatible. 47 U.S.C. Section 610 et
Other public telephone services will
now also be required. TDDs are listed among those devices
considered to be auxiliary aids. 28 C.F.R. Section 35.104.
Loaner TDDs must be available for use at airports with the
public pay telephones where pay TDDs are not provided.
Signage regarding their availability must be
Some modifications are not considered
to be auxiliary aids, but are considered to be structural in
nature. A different standard will be applied for structural
barriers. Structural barriers must be removed in existing
buildings if such removal is "readily achievable."
Therefore, if rendering a public telephone in an existing
bank of telephones accessible would be "readily achievable",
it must be done now. Provision of a volume control on the
handset would seem to be an example of a readily achievable
accommodation. Provision of an outlet and shelf for loaner
TDD at a pay telephone would also appear readily
The requirements are more stringent
for new construction and renovation. 28 C.F.R. Section
35.151(c). These requirements are set forth in the ADA
Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities
(ADAAG), 28 C.F.R. Part 36, Appendix A.
If public pay telephones or other
public telephones are provided in new construction, a
certain number of them must be accessible to deaf and hard
of hearing persons. The number which must be accessible for
hard of hearing users are determined by the following
Number of each type of Number of telephones
telephone provided required to comply with
on each floor [regulation]
l or more single unit l per floor
l bank [two or morel per floor l per floor
adjacent public telephones]
2 or more banks l per bank. Accessible unit
may be installed as a single
unit in proximity (either
visible or with signage) to
the bank. . .
ADAAG, Section 4.1.3(17)(a).
All public telephones required to be
accessible pursuant to this table must be hearing aid
compatible, and equipped with a volume control. ADAAG,
Section 4.1.3(17)(b). An additional 25 percent of all other
public telephones must also be equipped with volume control.
ADAAG, Sections 4.1.3(17)(b), 4.31.5. All telephones
equipped with volume control under this law must be
identified as such. ADAAG, Section 4.30.7(2).
The regulations are somewhat different
for the provision of TDDs at public telephones. Newly
constructed buildings and newly renovated areas will be
required to provide TDDs at some public telephones. (The
regulations designate TDDs as "text telephones"). The
following regulation sets forth the number of text
telephones required in new construction:
(i) if a total number of four
or more public pay telephones (including both interior
and exterior phones) is provided at a site, and at least
one is in an interior location, then at least one
interior public text telephone shall be provided.
ADAAG, Section 4.1.3(17)(c); Section
Airports have an additional obligation
regarding provision of public text telephones:
Additionally, if four or more
public pay telephones are located in any of the following
locations, at least one public text telephone shall also
be provided in that location:
- (a) a main terminal outside the
- (b) a concourse within the
security areas; or
- (c) a baggage claim area in a
ADAAG, Section 10.4.1(4).
Where a text telephone is required to
be provided, the regulation requires that signage
identifying the telephone as such must be provided. In
addition, directions to the public telephone with the TDD
must be placed next to each bank of telephones which does
not have a TDD, or at the entrance of the building if there
are no banks of telephones. ADAAG, Section
The regulation anticipates that
individuals with their own portable TDDs will need some
accommodations to enable them to use public telephones, and
requires, in new construction:
Where a bank of telephones in
the interior of a building consists of three or more
public pay telephones, at least one public pay telephone
in each such bank shall be equipped with a shelf and
outlet. . .
There is some flexibility in these
requirements. A portable TDD may be made available in lieu
of a public text telephone. Signage regarding this
availability, and a shelf and outlet, must be provided
adjacent to the public telephones if this means of
accommodation is chosen. ADAAG, Section
VISUAL ALERTING SYSTEMS
Deaf persons are also able to utilize
the ADA to ensure that they will not miss important
information available to others at an airport through the
public address system. Title II includes videotext displays
as an example of an auxiliary aid required to be provided by
public entities. 28 C.F.R. Section 35.104.
The ADAAG standard also requires
provision of systems to ensure that this information is
available to airport patrons who have hearing
Terminal information systems
which broadcast information to the general public through
a public address system shall provide a means to provide
the same or equivalent information to persons with a
hearing loss or who are deaf. Such methods may include,
but are not limited to, visual paging systems using video
monitors and computer technology. For persons with
certain types of hearing loss such methods may include,
but are not limited to, an assistive listening system
complying with 4.33.7.
ADAAG, Section 10.4.1(6).
Private airports must comply with all
of the ADAAG provisions noted above in their new
construction and renovation. Title III of the ADA, 42 U.S.C.
Sections 12182, 12183, the U.S. Department of Justice
regulation to Title III, 28 C.F.R. Part 36, and the Analysis
thereto, 56 Fed. Reg. 35544 (July 26, 1991), specifically
include private airports among those entities which are to
be considered to be commercial facilities subject to the new
construction and alteration requirements of that rule, as
specified in the ADAAG standards. See generally, Analysis of
the DOJ Regulation, at 56 Fed. Reg. 35547.
While private airports are not
considered to be public accommodations responsible to comply
with the general and specific requirements for existing
facilities under Title III of the ADA, the retail and
service establishments located at airports, such as
restaurants and stores, must comply with the obligations of
Title III. You may contact us for more information on those
We hope that this information is of assistance. Please let
us know if you have further questions.
Funded by a Grant
from the U.S. Department of Justice