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December 20, 2023In The News

Practitioners: Reasonable Accommodations Are Available in Court Proceedings 

Practitioners: Reasonable Accommodations Are Available in Court Proceedings 

November 17, 2023 

 

Practitioners: Reasonable Accommodations Are Available in Court Proceedings 

By: Tracy Rhodes, Staff Attorney 

Given the historical exclusion of individuals with disabilities from access to judicial programs, and the frequency with which individuals with disabilities encounter the legal system, practitioners should be mindful of the various accommodations available to their clients in court proceedings. 

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It has been almost 20 years since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Tennessee v. Lane, 541 U.S. 509 (2004). The Lane court held that Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as applied to cases implicating the fundamental right of access to the courts, constitutes a valid exercise of Congressional enforcement power. In reaching this decision, the court recounted “the sheer volume of evidence” that Congress received when passing the ADA “demonstrating the nature and extent of unconstitutional discrimination against persons with disabilities in the provision of public services.” This evidence included examples of individuals with visual and hearing impairments being excluded from jury service, state and local courts failing to provide interpretive services to people with hearing loss, adults with developmental disabilities not being permitted to testify in abuse cases, and failures to make courtrooms accessible to witnesses with physical disabilities. 

Today, individuals with disabilities regularly encounter the legal system as jurors, parties, witnesses, attorneys, judges and spectators. In particular, individuals with disabilities tend to be over-represented as parties and witnesses. For instance, individuals with disabilities disproportionately experience violent crime, are more likely to have their parental rights terminated, are more likely to be arrested, and are more likely to end up in the foster care system. As such, practitioners should be mindful of disability accommodations available to their clients in court proceedings, pursuant to the ADA and Rehabilitation Act (RA). 

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