If you expect to be in a state or local court for any reason, you or your lawyer must contact the court in advance to request the accommodations that are necessary for you to participate in and understand the court proceedings. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires state and local courts to provide qualified interpreters, real-time captioning (also called CART), assistive listening devices, or other auxiliary aids or services necessary to ensure effective communication with you. State and local courts are not required to provide accommodations that would fundamentally alter the court’s services or that would result in an undue financial and administrative burden. When a requested accommodation would result in a fundamental alteration or undue burden, the court must take any other action it can to ensure that communication with you is as effective as possible. State and local courts may not charge you for the cost of providing the accommodation that is necessary for you to understand or participate in the court proceedings.
In 1999, the NAD Law and Advocacy Center, working with a local advocacy group, was instrumental in reaching a Settlement Agreement between Rashad Gordon and Harris County, Texas. In early 2000, the NAD Law and Advocacy Center, working with the U.S. Department of Justice and others, was instrumental in reaching a Settlement Agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice, Rashad Gordon, Michael Edwards, and the City of Houston, Texas. These settlement agreements are considered models for police, city jail, and municipal courts providing effective communication with people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
You may also use the NAD Advocacy Statement Communication Access in State and Local Courts to inform the state or local court or your lawyer about your rights.
If you expect to be in a federal court for any reason, you or your lawyer must contact the court in advance to request the accommodations that are necessary for you to participate in and understand the court proceedings. The ADA does not apply to federal courts. However, the Judicial Conference of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts has adopted a policy that all federal courts will “provide reasonable accommodations to persons with communications disabilities.” Federal court policy requires federal courts to provide sign language interpreters or other appropriate auxiliary aids and services, at no charge to deaf or hard of hearing court participants. Federal court policy allows federal courts to decide whether to provide accommodations for court spectators who are deaf or hard of hearing. The NAD advocates for federal courts to provide accommodations for deaf and hard of hearing people in federal court, for any reason. The federal court policy is reprinted at Communication Access in Federal Courts, which you can use to inform the federal court or your lawyer about your rights.
If a federal, state, or local court is unable to communicate effectively with you or needs information about your rights under the ADA or federal court policy, ask them or your lawyer to contact the NAD Law and Advocacy Center.