Federal law (Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act) and/or State law (RSA 521-A and RSA 354-A) generally require an interpreter to be provided when it is necessary to ensure effective communication for a deaf or hard of hearing person, i.e. as effective as it would be between people who hear.
Who must provide the interpreter?
Employers – all private employers with over 15 employees, state and local government and federally funded private employers must provide an interpreter when it is necessary for effective communication unless it would cause an undue burden. For example, an interpreter should be provided for a deaf or hard of hearing person at a job interview or for staff training, but generally does not have to be available full time for the conduct of daily employment activities.
All state and local executive, legislative, and judicial government agencies and instrumentalities, including town boards and departments, police, jails, government licensed facilities, community mental health centers, area agencies, etc. However, an interpreter may not be necessary for a simple or brief communication such as setting up an appointment, where passing notes with a receptionist may be sufficient; whereas one may be necessary for the actual appointment or event, e.g. interview of a deaf person by police or intake worker or speaking in support of an application for zoning permit.
Places which accommodate members of the public such as hospitals, doctor and lawyer’s offices, restaurants, hotels, day care centers, car dealers, or other retail establishments, when the interpreter is necessary for effective communication unless the entity can legitimately claim an undue burden. For example, a business would generally not have to provide an interpreter for a deaf customer, as the communications involved will be typically simple and brief. However an interpreter generally should be provided for a deaf person where relatively complex, lengthy, and/or serious matters will be discussed, such as vehicle purchases, loan closings, lawyer or doctor appointments.
Undue hardship varies depending on the circumstances, however undue hardship may be claimed if paying for an interpreter would be highly or unduly costly to or fundamentally alter an organization’s business or operation. For example, a small business generally would not need an interpreter on a full or even part time basis in order to enable a deaf person to work at his or her business because it may be unduly costly (and also unnecessary), but would have to pay for an interpreter for an employment interview or during orientation.