H&R Block Ruling Addresses Access As the April 15 income tax deadline approaches, tax-preparation company H&R Block must comply with a settlement that requires the company to provide appropriate aids and services—including sign-language interpreter services—to customers who are deaf or hard of hearing. The comprehensive settlement agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice and HRB ... Policy Analysis
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Policy Analysis  |   March 01, 2011
H&R Block Ruling Addresses Access
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Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / Policy Analysis
Policy Analysis   |   March 01, 2011
H&R Block Ruling Addresses Access
The ASHA Leader, March 2011, Vol. 16, 1-25. doi:10.1044/leader.PA.16032011.1
The ASHA Leader, March 2011, Vol. 16, 1-25. doi:10.1044/leader.PA.16032011.1
As the April 15 income tax deadline approaches, tax-preparation company H&R Block must comply with a settlement that requires the company to provide appropriate aids and services—including sign-language interpreter services—to customers who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The comprehensive settlement agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice and HRB Tax Group Inc., H&R Block Tax Services LLC, and HRB Advance LLC (H&R Block) was made under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). It is designed to ensure effective communication with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing who seek tax preparation services and courses at more than 11,000 owned and franchised offices nationwide. According to the company website, H&R Block prepared 24 million tax returns worldwide in 2010.
The agreement, which resolves an ADA complaint filed by an individual who is deaf, requires H&R Block to:
  • Provide auxiliary aids and services when necessary, including qualified sign-language interpreters, to persons who are deaf or hard of hearing to ensure effective communication of its tax preparation services, programs, and courses.

  • Adopt and enforce a policy on effective communication with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing for all H&R Block offices nationwide, post the policy on its websites and in its employee manuals, and distribute the policy to current and new employees and contractors.

  • Establish and maintain a list of sign language interpreter providers.

  • Post and maintain—in a conspicuous location in all office reception areas—a notice stating that individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing have a right under the ADA to request a sign language or oral interpreter or other form of auxiliary aid or service if needed.

  • Provide staff training on the ADA and H&R Block’s obligations to provide effective communication to individuals with disabilities.

  • Monitor franchisees’ compliance with this requirement and other requirements of federal, state or local laws.

  • Pay $5,000 damages to the individual who filed the original complaint and a $20,000 civil penalty.

The ADA prohibits businesses that serve the public from discriminating against customers with disabilities and requires tax preparation services, accountants, lawyers, doctors, and other businesses to provide equal access to customers who are deaf or hard of hearing. When services involve important, lengthy, or complex oral communications with customers, businesses are generally required to provide qualified sign-language interpreters and other aids at no charge to individuals who have hearing impairments or speech disabilities. Aids may include using telephone relay services, exchanging notes for brief and uncomplicated communications, providing assistive listening systems and receivers in classes, and providing captioned videos. Auxiliary aids also must be provided for individuals who are blind or have low vision.
For more information, visit the Americans With Disabilities Act website.
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March 2011
Volume 16, Issue 3