ADA - Effective Communications

It is the policy of the Woodland Police Department to ensure that a consistently high level of service is provided to all community members, including those who are deaf or hard of hearing. This Department has specific legal obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. To carry out these policies and legal obligations, the Department instructs its officers and employees as follows:

  • People who identify themselves as deaf or hard of hearing are entitled to a level of service equivalent to that provided hearing persons.
  • The Department will make every reasonable effort to ensure that its officers and employees communicate effectively with people who have identified themselves as deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Effective communication with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing involved in an incident-whether as a victim, witness, suspect, or arrestee, is essential in ascertaining what actually occurred, the urgency of the matter, and type of situation.
  • Various types of communication aids-known as ‘auxiliary aids and services' are used to communicate with people who are deaf or hard of hearing. These include use of gestures or visual aids to supplement oral communication; an exchange of written notes; use of a computer or typewriter; use of assisted listening devices (to amplify sound for persons who are hard of hearing); or use of qualified oral or sign language interpreters.
  • The type of aid that will be required for effective communication will depend on the individual's usual method of communication, and the nature, importance, and duration of the communication at issue.
  • In many circumstances, oral communication supplemented by gestures and visual aids, an exchange of written notes, use of a computer or typewriter, or use of an assisted listening device may be effective. In other circumstances, qualified sign language or oral interpreters are needed to communicate effectively with persons who are deaf or hard of hearing. The more lengthy, complex, and important the communication, the more likely it is that a qualified interpreter will be required for effective communication with a person whose primary means of communication is sign language or speech reading. For example:
    1. If there has been an incident and the officer is conducting witness interviews, a qualified sign language interpreter may be required to communicate effectively with someone whose primary means of communication is sign language.
    2. If a person is asking an officer for directions to a location, gestures and an exchange of written notes will likely be sufficient to communicate effectively and a sign language interpreter is often not required.
  • To serve each individual effectively, primary consideration should be given to the communication aid or service that works best for that person. Officers must ask persons who are deaf or hard of hearing what type of auxiliary aid or service they need. Officers must defer to those expressed choices unless there is another equally effective way of communicating (i.e. depending on the circumstances, the length, complexity, and importance of the communication, as well as, the communication skills of the person who is deaf or hard of hearing).
  • The Department is not required to provide a particular auxiliary aid or service if doing so would fundamentally alter the nature of the law enforcement activity in question, or if it would cause an undue administrative or financial burden. Only the City Manager or his or her designee may make this determination. For example:
  • If the City has limited financial resources and providing a particular auxiliary aid would cost a large sum of money, the City Manager may determine that it would be an undue financial burden (note: the City's budget as a whole must be considered). In this situation, the most effective means of communication that does not involve an undue burden must be used.
  • The input of people who are deaf or hard of hearing who are involved in incidents is just as important to the law enforcement process as the input of others. Officers must not draw conclusions about incidents unless they fully understand-and are understood by-all those involved, including persons who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • People who are deaf or hard of hearing must never be charged for the cost of an auxiliary aid or service needed for effective communication.