Help for the Hearing Impaired in the Courtroom

Hearing Loss Patients May Require Additional Help When Going to Court

In 1990, the American Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed. This law has had far reaching implications for our society. Curbs at intersections all slant downward now to make it easier for wheelchairs. There are a myriad of handicapped parking spots at every mall and public facility. New buildings have elevators, bathrooms are bigger, and restrooms all have handicapped stalls with raised toilets. But for the hearing impaired, it is still a struggle to be brought into the mainstream, even in our court system.

Many hearing impaired individuals have said that their requests to be excused from jury duty due to their hearing loss have been denied by the courts. If a hard of hearing person receives notification for jury duty, there is time to ask for accommodations.

Accommodations in the Courtroom for the Hearing-Impaired

Some states, such as Florida, California, and Virginia, have online request forms that a person can complete and submit to the court system to have accommodations. Most states have an ADA coordinator appointed in each court (in Massachusetts, the ADA coordinators are listed on the government website with an email address). To ask for accommodations, the person must contact the ADA coordinator. Most states require at least a five to seven day advance notice for the need of accommodations.

There are also FM (personal frequency modulation) devices that can assist the hearing impaired with hearing in a courtroom that has bad acoustics. These devices have microphones that are worn by the judge, witnesses, and attorneys, transmitting the sound directly to the person wearing the receiver, allowing them to follow the proceedings.

Another option available is the use of CART services, or Communication Access Real-time Translation. This service requires a highly-trained individual to use a stenotype machine. This machine has computer software that translates the specialized shorthand into the conversation. The lag time is minimal and the deaf or hard of hearing person can read what is being said and be a part of the proceedings. Although CART is especially helpful to the hearing impaired, many courts refuse to make the arrangements for this service due to the cost.

Sometimes a sign language interpreter is needed for the person to be a part of the proceedings. This gives a real-time translation to the deaf person. Again, many courts deny this service because it is expensive. If you have trouble hearing and are due to appear in court, our board-certified audiologists can perform a comprehensive hearing exam, and fit you with a hearing device that will allow you to be a part of the procedure. Call the number on this page or fill out our online contact form to learn more about our services.