Deaf and hard of hearing detainees held pending a hearing have the same right as their hearing peers to participate in the programs, services, and activities that are available to detainees. For example, if a hearing individual is able to make a telephone call, then an individual who is deaf has an equal right to make a telephone call. If the individual needs a TTY or other telecommunications device in order to place the telephone call, then the jail or prison must make such a device available.
Similarly, prisons for people found guilty and sentenced must make their programs, services, and activities accessible to individuals who are deaf. For example, prisons must provide qualified interpreters, real-time captioning (also called CART), assistive listening devices, or other auxiliary aids or services when necessary to ensure effective communication with a deaf or hard of hearing inmate who wishes to participate in a class offered to inmates. Prisons are not required to provide accommodations that would result in an undue burden (significant difficulty or expense). When a requested accommodation would result in an undue burden, the prison must take any other action it can to ensure that communication with you is as effective as possible.
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 Memo Rights of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Inmates to inform the jail, prison, or your lawyer about your rights.
If a jail, detention center, or prison is unable to communicate effectively with you or needs information about your rights under the ADA, ask them or your lawyer to contact the NAD Law and Advocacy Center.