Effective Communication in Parks and Recreation
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A woman walks to the front of the room and begins to
communicate in American Sign Language. The hearing participants
look at each other in confusion. Worry is displayed on each person's
face as they wonder how will they understand the information presented
in the class. For many people with visual, auditory, or cognitive
impairments, this scenario can be a daily event. Effective communication
is essential for an individual to be able to participate and benefit
in programs and activities.
What is Effective Communication?
Effective communication requires a public accommodation
to ensure equal access to programs by including various types of
auxiliary aids and services. Equal access for participants with
visual, hearing or cognitive disabilities is often achieved by offering
the same information in various formats in order for everyone to
have a similar understanding of programs, services, or activities.
A public accommodation can utilize a variety of auxiliary aids and
services such as the provision of a sign language interpreter for
a person who is deaf during a museum tour or a large print park
map for a visitor who is visually impaired. Under Title III of the
Americans with Disabilities Act (28 C.F.R. §36.303), "public accommodations
shall take those steps that may be necessary to ensure that no individual
with a disability is excluded, denied services, segregated or otherwise
treated differently than other individuals because of the absence
of auxiliary aids and services, unless the public accommodation
can demonstrate that taking those steps would fundamentally alter
the nature of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages,
or accommodations being offered or would result in an undue burden,
i.e., significant difficulty or expense." In addition, the ADA requires
"a public accommodation shall furnish appropriate auxiliary aids
and services where necessary to ensure effective communication with
individuals with disabilities."
Auxiliary Aids and Services
The Americans with Disabilities Act provides examples
of auxiliary aids and services in order to provide effective communication:
- Qualified interpreter
- Note takers
- Computer-aided transcription services
- Written materials
- Telephone handset amplifiers
- Assistive listening systems
- Telephones compatible with hearing aids
- Closed caption decoders
- Open and closed captioning
- Telecommunications devices for deaf persons(TTY)
- Video text displays
- Written notes
- Qualified readers
- Taped texts
- Audio recordings
- Brailled materials
- Large print materials
Planning Programs and Activities
For recreation program coordinators, a critical component in program
planning is determining how the program information will be conveyed
and methods to provide effective communication for visitors with
disabilities. For example, in many museums historical items are
kept behind a glass case for preservation. What alternatives could
be offered to a person who is blind so that they may benefit from
the display of the artifacts? Providing audio description of the
artifacts could give the visitor with the visual impairment a better
idea of the size, shape, texture and use for the object. In addition,
it would benefit all museum visitors by allowing more information
to be included in the exhibit.
When determining an effective auxiliary aid or service, take into
Consider a person who is deaf would like to take golf lessons. When
the person initially registers for the golf lessons, the length of
communication will most likely be short; perhaps all that is needed
is for the person to complete registration forms. In this case, the
complexity may only require writing short notes from staff to participant
to ask and answer questions. However, during the golf lesson itself,
the type of communication primarily exchanged with the beginner golfer
will most likely include verbal description from the instructor to
improve the golfer's technique. For the actual lessons, a qualified
sign language interpreter will most likely will be needed due to the
length and complexity of the lesson and information conveyed.
- Type of communication
- Length of communication
- Complexity of communication
Appropriateness of the auxiliary aid is another key consideration.
For instance, a written script is not beneficial in a movie theater.
It is very difficult for a person to both follow along with the
actions on the movie screen and read a written narration in the
dark theater. A qualified sign language interpreter may also divert
attention away from the movie. Captioning would be a better solution.
Rear Window (r) captioning is a system that provides closed captioning
to individuals at their seat as opposed to placing the caption on
the movie screen itself. Reverse captions are displayed on an LED
mounted in the back of the theater. Portable reflective panels attach
to any theater seat allowing the patron to sit anywhere in the theater
and adjust the reflector to their personal comfort.
Providing An Interpreter
|A qualified interpreter can successfully communicate
with an individual with a disability requiring the interpreter.
Photo courtesy of the Rockford (IL) Park District.
Many situations do require an interpreter. There are differences
between a "qualified" interpreter and a "certified" interpreter.
The ADA requires that in the event an interpreter is needed, a qualified
interpreter be provided. A "qualified" interpreter should meet the
prerequisite skills and be able to successfully communicate with
the individual with a disability requiring the interpreter. Today,
many states now require that interpreters be certified, this can
include extensive training and some type of examination to meet
state requirements for certification. When a request for an interpreter
comes into a program, it is important that the program coordinator
talk with the participant on his or her specific needs for communication
during the program. What type of interpreter is needed? During the
initial contact with the participant who is deaf, the program coordinator
may learn that the individual does not know American Sign Language;
instead he signs exact English. This is important new information
that will help identify a qualified interpreter that specializes
in signed exact English.
Many recreation providers are concerned with finding a sign language
interpreter at late notice. Consider implementing a policy for advance
notification or request for services. Promote the notification policy
in marketing materials like program brochures, fliers, web sites.
For example, to schedule a tour with a sign language interpreter,
indicate in the program brochure for the participant to notify the
organization 48-72 hours prior to their visit. This advance notice
also allows for information gathering on exactly what the person's
needs are and time to make arrangements for the interpreter.
Sign language interpreters can be contacted through an agency such
as the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf or a local Center for
Independent Living. Many agencies have interpreters on call 24 hours
a day, however, fees may be higher on short notice. In preparation
for the possibility of providing an interpreter, agencies should
be contacted to establish a procedure for scheduling an interpreter.
Important information to inquire about may include:
- Types of interpreters, i.e. American Sign Language, Exact English
- Levels of interpreters, i.e. Certifications
- Any fees associated with providing the interpreter
The National Suburban Special Recreation Association in Northbrook,
Illinois maintains a core list of interpreters they call when notified
of the need for an interpreter. According to Dawn Schaefer, Manager
of Inclusion Services, the NSSRA attempts to provide one consistent
interpreter for each participant throughout an entire season when
possible. Often an interpreter can be provided on a days notice. However,
in case of an emergency, NSSRA relies on the Chicago Hearing Society,
which has a larger pool of interpreters to access at a higher cost.
Laurie Anderson, Therapeutic Recreation Manager at Rockford Park District
in Rockford, Illinois states a similar approach; sign language interpreters
are on staff seasonally. In addition, many staff currently attending
the interpreter program are hired as inclusion program leaders or
communicators. They are paid a lower hourly rate and work with participants
who may not require as intensive communication as provided through
a certified interpreter. Unlike interpreters whose primary role is
to translate between participants and staff, the communicators and
inclusion program leaders in the recreation programs at the Rockford
Park District are encouraged to participate in the activities with
the individuals with disabilities, lead activities and facilitate
friendships between participants with disabilities and participants
without disabilities. In addition, the Rockford Park District has
established a relationship with the Regional Access Mobilization Project
(RAMP), the local center for independent living. RAMP provides back
up interpreters in an emergency.
|A sign language interpreter is used during a summer
playground program. Photo courtesy of the Rockford (IL) Park
Fees Associated with Auxiliary Aids and Services
Often recreation providers are concerned with covering the cost
for the auxiliary aids and services. The ADA specifically states
a public accommodation may not impose a surcharge on a particular
individual with a disability or any group of individuals with disabilities
to cover the cost of measures, such as the provision of auxiliary
aids, barrier removal...and reasonable modifications...that are
required to provide that individual or group with the nondiscriminatory
treatment required by the Act or this part (28 C.R.F. § 36.301).
One creative method to cover the costs of auxiliary aids and services
is to raise the admission price a small amount, perhaps $1, for
everyone and allocating the increase to a fund to specifically cover
any expenses incurred from providing auxiliary aids and services.
Planning Alternatives for Written Material
Brochures and maps are helpful tools to convey information about parks
and other recreation programs. Alternative formats such as Braille,
large print and perhaps even guides should be considered for people
who are blind or visually impaired. People with disabilities access
information differently. While one format may be effective for one
user, it may be ineffective for another. For instance, many people
who are blind do not necessarily read Braille, an audio recording
would be one such method to supplement the information. Tapping into
Community Resources It is essential in program planning to understand
your customer base. Surveys are an excellent tool to generate feedback.
Tap into local centers for independent living for resources involving
the local community, wants and needs for programming. Perhaps there
is a population not being reached due to inaccessibility of a program.
Advocates from local centers for independent living can provide valuable
information on how to remove barriers to programs and increase participation
by people with disabilities. with the Regional Access Mobilization
Project (RAMP), the local center for independent living. RAMP provides
back up interpreters in an emergency.
|(Top) Audio cassettes can provide effective communication to people who are blind or visually impaired.
|(Bottom) Providing a guide is an alternative for written material.
Tapping into Community Resources
It is essential in program planning to understand your customer
base. Surveys are an excellent tool to generate feedback. Tap into
local centers for independent living for resources involving the
local community, wants and needs for programming. Perhaps there
is a population not being reached due to inaccessibility of a program.
Advocates from local centers for independent living can provide
valuable information on how to remove barriers to programs and increase
participation by people with disabilities.
- Braille Translation
(Translation of Text to Braille)
American Printing House for the Blind
National Braille Press
- Sign Language Interpreters
Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf
8630 Fenton St, Suite 324
Silver Springs, MD 20910
(301) 608-0050 Voice/TTY
(301) 608-0508 Fax
- Audio Description
National Center for Accessible Media
125 Western Avenue
Boston, MA 02134
American Council for the Blind
1155 15th St NW Suite 1004
Washington, DC 2005
North Texas Taping and Radio for the Blind
3001 Bookout Dallas, TX 75201
- General Resources
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights Section
P.O. Box 66738 Washington, DC 20035-6738
Voice (800) 514-0383 TTY
Disability and Business
Technical Assistance Centers
National Center on Accessibility
(812) 856-4422 (voice)
(812) 8564421 (tty)