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Department of Public Works
Department of Public Works

City of Berkeley Administrative Regulation 1.12

A.R. Number: 1.12 [Formerly 1.90]
Effective Date: 6/1/95
Reissue Date: 6/15/02

Subject: Communications Access Policy 



The purpose of this policy is to: 

  1. Comply with Section 504, Title V of the Federal Rehabilitation Act, Sections 11135-11139.5 of the California Government Code and federal and state department implementing regulations which specify that disabled persons are entitled to access programs and activities in a manner that is equal to that offered non-disabled persons.

  2. Ensure that communications with applicants, employees, service recipients and citizens are effective, and systems used to communicate are functional for all, including persons with hearing, speech, vision, mobility and language impairments.

  3. Providing reasonable accommodation, which may include, but is not limited to, appropriate support assistance or use of auxiliary aids to qualified applicants, employees, or recipients with impaired sensory, mobility, or speaking skills where refusal to do so would impair or exclude and/or effective participation.


It shall be the policy of the City of Berkeley to:

  1. Ensure that communications with applicants, employees and recipients of services are effective to meet the needs of persons with hearing, speech, vision, language and mobility impairments; and

  2. Make all City services and meetings which are otherwise available to the public accessible to people with communication disabilities.


The Communications Access Policy applies to all City departments, boards, commissions, task forces and other duly constituted bodies and offices operated by the City of Berkeley.  This applies, in particular, to those departments and organizations relating directly to the general public.

  1. Legal Basis

    1. Discrimination Prohibited

      Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973. (29 USC 794) specifies:

      "No otherwise qualified disabled individual in the United States ...shall, solely by reason of his/her disability, be excluded from the participation in or be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."

    2. Discrimination Prohibited

      Section 11135-11139.5 of the California Government Code specifies:

      "No disabled person in California may be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity that receives any financial assistance from the State."

  2. Background

    People with disabilities, who are otherwise capable of equal and active participation in all aspects of society, often find their participation blocked by barriers of different kinds. In recent years, in response to the pressure of disabled persons' organizations, the public has become increasingly aware of the need to remove such barriers.  The City of Berkeley fully supports the principle that facilities and services be accessible to people with disabilities, and is establishing the Communications Access Policy to ensure that the necessary accommodations are made.

    Summarized below are the different kinds of disabilities and barriers to be removed, as they affect the City:

    1. People with physical disabilities (those using wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, or having other physical impairments) encounter architectural barriers such as insurmountable stairs, narrow doorways, etc.  Often it is difficult to get information about whether or how a particular site is accessible.  Therefore, meetings and services should occur in wheelchair accessible facilities; and the public should be made aware of unavoidable barriers in advance of scheduled meetings.

    2. People with hearing impairments, including deaf and the hard of hearing, encounter communications barriers.  Lack of access to the spoken word poses the need for TDD (Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf, which attach to the standard telephone and transmit print) and sign language and oral interpreters and any other specialized devices and programs to meet their needs.

    3. People with visual impairments, including blind and partially-sighted people, also encounter communications barriers.  Lack of access to the printed word necessitates that written material may be put into larger print, into Braille, or tape-recorded.  No single method works in every situation.  A relatively small percentage of blind people use Braille; but for those who do, a Braille text is often more familiar than a taped text, although a taped version is generally useable by anyone.  For those with partial vision, enlarged print is often adequate, as well as inexpensive and easy to produce with a large print typewriter or a large print element for a standard modern office typewriter.

    4. People with speech impairments, including persons with severe cerebral palsy, and people with mental or learning impairments, including persons with dyslexia and retardation, encounter communications barriers.  For these people the ability to speak and understand the spoken word is a slow process and usually requires patience and understanding of persons coming in contact with them.  Oftentimes this means the elimination of preconceived biases and prejudices.

    Generally, all disabled persons face attitudinal barriers - negative or inaccurate attitudes held toward them by other people.  Education, awareness and familiarity with disabled people are needed to counter attitudinal barriers.

  3. How the Communications Access Policy Will Be Implemented

    The City Manager's Office will take the lead to implement the Communications Access Policy by working with the City Clerk's Office, the Personnel Department and the network of representatives from each City department.  The responsibilities of each of these departments are outlined below:

    1. Responsibilities of City Manager's Office representative:

      1. Maintain relationship with agencies and personnel involved in communicative services as outlined in Section B.

      2. Monitor Communications Access Policy.

      3. Provide periodic progress reports to HRWC Subcommittee on the Disabled and publicize efforts in the local media.

    2. Responsibilities of Personnel Department representative:

      1. Provide periodic training and/or disseminate information to:

        • all supervisors and management employees;

        • all City employees

        • City staff responsible for various tasks (pursuant to this policy).

      2. Provide technical assistance to other City departments on personnel related matters such as reasonable accommodations, etc.

    3. Responsibilities of City Clerk's Office representative:

      1. The City Clerk's Office representative will be the central coordinator to whom the general public and all City departments should direct requests for sign language and oral interpreters for the hearing, speech and mentally impaired and alternate versions of written text for the visually impaired.  Also, the City Clerk's Office has the TDD communication with deaf people requesting interpreters, conducting City business, etc.  This representative is knowledgeable about removing communication barriers for hearing and visually impaired people and will help other City staff as needed.  Other duties include:

        • operating and maintaining TDD equipment;

        • training other City Clerk's Office staff to operate the TDD in the representative's absence;

        • ensuring that TDD telephone is listed whenever the City's voice telephones are advertised and whenever other City telephones are listed;

          The proper format for this is as follows:
          XXX-XXXX (Departmental Telephone Number)
          981-6903 (TDD) (Telecommunicative Device for the Deaf)

        • assisting TDD hearing impaired callers to obtain information needed from various City departments via TDD and assisting departments needing to communicate with the hearing impaired via TDD;

        • coordinating the provisions of certified sign language/oral interpreters when needed by hearing impaired persons attending public meetings or programs or by using interpreter referral agencies or interpreters with whom the City has contacts.  In those situations where it is necessary for individuals to provide their own accommodations to attend a public meeting or program, making certain that reimbursement for such assistance is processed accordingly.  This includes the coordination with departments needing interpreters or secretarial services for those unable to write and handling any necessary billing:

          The City requires a minimum of five (5) working days notice to ensure an interpreter because that is the length of time required by interpreter referral agencies with whom the City has contracts.  The City and the contracting agencies will attempt to provide an interpreter on shorter notice but cannot guarantee success;

        • coordinating with departments that have their own internal procedures for scheduling sign language interpreters, using TDD's, etc., to ensure orderly processing with the City and a coherent provision of services to the disabled public;

        • providing written materials in Braille, large print, or on cassette tape, upon request from visually impaired people.  The Brailling can be done by a private Braillist with whom the City has a contract.

          To provide for a cassette tape or large print, the City Clerk's Office representative can make use of facilities in the Library and Central Duplicating shops;

        • coordinating publicity to the general public, including disabled people, when the Communications Access Policy is first implemented and periodically thereafter.  The publicity will focus on the availability of TDD, sign language and oral interpreter services, alternatives or written text, and holding City meetings in wheelchair accessible facilities.  Staff knowledgeable of organizations administered by and serving disabled people should be consulted as to the best means of specifically reaching the disabled.

    4. Responsibilities of the department representatives:

      1. Receiving training on communication and mobility accessibility, including how to determine whether a particular situation or location is wheelchair or communicative accessible.  Training should be provided with a periodic updating, using staff of relevant organizations administered by and serving disabled persons, either within or outside the City.

      2. Informing other department staff and each board, commission, committee, task force, etc., connected with the department of the Communications Access Policy, including:

        • the need to coordinate communications with deaf or hearing impaired people using a TDD (via the City Clerk's Office representative);

        • the need for sign language or oral interpreters on request (via the City Clerk's Office representative), unless the department concerned has its own procedures for providing interpreters;

        • the availability of Braille, tape recorded or other written materials (via the City Clerk's Office representative);

        • the necessity of conducting business and programs and holding meetings in wheelchair accessible facilities;

        • the need to include information about physical accessibility, sign language or oral interpreters, and alternate versions of written text on meeting notices and other publicity;

        • the necessity of positive flexible attitudes in dealing with individuals (e.g., people may require assistance in filling out a form, a repeated and patient explanation, etc.)

      3. Ensuring that all boards, commissions, committees, task forces, etc., which have meetings open to the public, meet in wheelchair accessible facilities, by determining if their meeting places are accessible and arranging changes in location if necessary.  Department representatives will be provided with a list of City-owned facilities and other surveyed locations that are accessible and will only need to survey potential sites if they are non-City facilities or facilities on which the City has no access information (for events such as community meetings, special events, receptions, etc.)

      4. Ensuring that all forms of publicity, notices, listings, etc., of public meetings include the information that the facilities are wheelchair accessible (with an added note about any unavoidable barriers or other needed information) and that a sign language or oral interpreter and/or alternate versions of written material can be requested.

        Sample language:

        • Wheelchair accessible

        • Entrance wheelchair accessible; restrooms not wheelchair accessible

        • Wheelchair accessible (enter via side door ramp through parking lot)

        • Call XXX-XXXX (voice) or 981-6903 (TDD) to request a sign language or oral interpreter.  Five (5) working days notice will ensure an interpreter.

        • This text can be obtained in large print, Braille, or on a cassette tape

      5. Problems and/or questions should be referred to the City Manager's representative or the Personnel Department representative.

RESPONSIBLE PARTY: Disability Compliance Coordinator

Approved by:

Department Director
Deputy City Manager
City Manager

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