Auxiliary aids and services

Auxiliary is an adjective describing something that provides additional help. The terms auxiliary aid and auxiliary service describe communications tools or assistance offered to someone with a sensory disability. (A sensory disability is sometimes also called a communications disability.)

For example, a pen and paper can improve communication with a person who is Deaf or hard of hearing, as can text messaging on smartphones. Additional examples include sign language interpreters and Communication Access Real-Time Captioning (CART), as well as TTY for telephony, Braille and large-print reading materials, and audiobooks.

[ Read: The ADA and Title II Public Entities ]


A barrier prevents access for a person with a disability. The most common barrier referred to in the ADA is a physical barrier, also known as an architectural barrier.


Braille is a system of raised dots that may be used as one type of substitute for print by individuals with visual impairments. The raised dots provide tactile information, and are meant to be felt instead of viewed. Braille letters do not feel like—or look like—the English alphabet. The dots are arranged in small groups, with each group representing a letter or a group of letters. Not all people who have a visual disability can read Braille.


Captioning is displaying audio as text on a screen or other visual device. Captioning can occur at a live event, such as a lecture. Captioning can also be applied to a recording, such as a movie. Captioning includes both the spoken word and other sounds that are important to an event or communication. To be effective, captioning must be timely, complete, accurate, and efficient. There are two general types of captions: closed and open. Closed captions, often identified by [CC], are available in a separate stream from a given media source. Closed captions can be turned on or off by the user. Open captions are “baked” into the media and are always visible.

Disability-related inquiry

A disability-related inquiry is a question asked by an employer about whether a person has a disability. The question can be direct, such as “Do you have a disability?” or “Do you have a physical or mental condition that would prevent you from doing this job?” or it can be indirect so that an answer may reveal disability information, such as “Do you need an accommodation?” or “Are you currently taking any prescription medications?” A disability-related inquiry can be asked only in certain specific circumstances and generally only after a job has been offered.

[ Read: The ADA and Employers ]

Equal opportunity

In the context of the disability rights, equal opportunity means a person with a disability has the same chance to get a job, receive services from a state or local government, or access a business or nonprofit organization as someone without a disability. However, equal opportunity does not mean that a person with a disability will get the same result or preferential treatment.

Essential function

An essential function is a part of an employee’s duties that is central to why they were hired. For example, an essential function of a cashier is to take payments and make change. And, an essential function of a pilot is to fly an airplane. Note that under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an employer is never required to eliminate an essential job function, but an employer may need to provide a reasonable accommodation to help a person do the function.

[ Compare to: Marginal function ]

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