National Association of the Deaf

Police and Law Enforcement



State and local police and law enforcement agencies are required to take action to ensure effective communication with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.  They are required to provide the accommodations that are necessary to ensure effective communication with you, such as qualified interpreters, CART, or assistive listening devices.  They must give primary consideration to the accommodation requested by the individual who is deaf or hard of hearing.  State and local police law enforcement agencies are not required to provide accommodations that would fundamentally alter the law enforcement service or that would result in an undue financial and administrative burden.  When a requested accommodation would result in a fundamental alteration or undue burden, the police or law enforcement agency must take any other action it can to ensure that communication with you is as effective as possible.  For example, it may be impossible to provide interpreter services when a police officer stops your car for a routine traffic violation.  The police officer should take any other action possible to communicate effectively with you, such as exchanging written information with you.

The U.S. Department of Justice has prepared information for police and law enforcement agencies that is available at http://www.ada.gov/policeinfo.htm and includes the following:

  • Communicating with People Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: ADA Guide for Law Enforcement Officers
  • Model Policy for Law Enforcement on Communicating with People Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
  • Commonly Asked Questions about the Americans with Disabilities Act and Law Enforcement
  • Questions and Answers:  The Americans with Disabilities Act and Hiring Police Officers
  • An eight-part video series called “Police Response to People with Disabilities”

In 1999, the NAD Law and Advocacy Center, working with a local advocacy group, was instrumental in reaching a Settlement Agreement between Rashad Gordon and Harris County, Texas.  In early 2000, the NAD Law and Advocacy Center, working with the U.S. Department of Justice and others, was instrumental in reaching a Settlement Agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice, Rashad Gordon, Michael Edwards, and the City of Houston, Texas.  These settlement agreements are considered models for police, city jail, and municipal courts providing effective communication with people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

You may also use the NAD Memo Communication Access with Police and Law Enforcement to inform the police, law enforcement agency, or your lawyer about your rights.

American Civil Liberities Union (ACLU) produced an ASL video that covers several topics of what your rights are as a deaf and hard of hearing person, when dealing with the Police.

A local TV news station produced a newstory with tips for deaf and hard of hearing drivers.

If your police department, law enforcement agency, or lawyer is unable to communicate effectively with you or needs information about your rights under the ADA, ask them to contact the NAD Law and Advocacy Center.