Obtaining justice from the Justice System requires communication; consequently, deaf people can find the system baffling, degrading, isolating and just plain unjust.
Though the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires law enforcement officers, lawyers, judges, courtrooms, jails and prisons to provide “reasonable accommodations” for people with disabilities, too often the deaf individual is given little or no reasonable accommodations because professionals do not know what a particular deaf individual reasonably needs for communication. What is more, the U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which enforces the ADA’s core provisions, has outdated and/or unimplemented policies. Consequently, though the ADA presents the best of intentions, it is effectively meaningless for many deaf people who must endure the Justice System for one reason or another.
The resulting injustice led to the formation of Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf (HEARD), a nonprofit volunteer organization dedicated to identifying and removing barriers that prevent the deaf from participating in and having equal access to the justice system. HEARD uses education and advocacy to help justice professionals become more competent and capable in dealing with language access and ADA concerns, as well as empower deaf people who must deal with the Justice System. HEARD’s stated goal is to “Create a universally accessible American justice system that equitably serves individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing.”
Even as HEARD is addressing the lack of education and resources among legal professionals, it also obviously believes that knowledge is power, as it encourages deaf individuals to know their Miranda rights, know their civil liberties, study the ADA and otherwise inform themselves and become educated. A better educated person has a better chance of navigating a system that can otherwise unfairly overwhelm a deaf person.
DO’S AND DON’TS
DO know your Miranda Rights, found here: http://www.mirandawarning.org/whatareyourmirandarights.html
DO access the American Disabilities Act’s instructions to law enforcement, found here:http://www.ada.gov/lawenfcomm.htm
DO access HEARD’s web site here: http://www.behearddc.org/
DO directly contact HEARD for assistance here: http://www.behearddc.org/contactus.html
Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither the author, handelonthelaw.com, or any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.