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Effective Communication with Individuals with Disabilities


Effective Communication with Individuals with Disabilities Tennessee Clerks of Court Conference June 15, 2011 Shelia A. Odusote, Paralegal Disability Law & Advocacy ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Effective Communication with Individuals with Disabilities

Effective Communication with Individuals with
  • Tennessee Clerks of Court Conference
  • June 15, 2011
  • Shelia A. Odusote, Paralegal
  • Disability Law Advocacy Center
  • of Tennessee (DLAC)
  • www.DLACTN.org

  • I am not an attorney.
  • This presentation is intended to provide you with
    some general information about effective
    communication with people with disabilities and
    related legal issues. Nothing in this
    presentation is legal advice about a specific
  • For legal advice regarding a specific situation,
    contact your attorney.

Disability Law Advocacy Center of Tennessee
  • Tennessees Protection and Advocacy agency
  • Federally funded and mandated
  • Assists individuals with disabilities
  • Handles selected issues with Vocational
    Rehabilitation, Education, Abuse and Neglect,
    Accessibility, Disability Discrimination, Voting,
    TBI, and Assistive Technology

DLAC, continued
  • Provides a range of legally based services
  • Must have a documented disability to receive case
  • Most services are free.
  • Co-counsel on Lane v TN resulted in accessible
    TN court program including ADA policy and
    reasonable modification form
  • One of our current priority areas is effective
    communication with people with disabilities
  • Involved in Access to Justice efforts

Legal Requirements Related To Communication with
People with Disabilities
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the
    primary law which prohibits discrimination
    against people with disabilities.
  • The ADA requires effective communication with
    people with disabilities.
  • The ADA applies to private businesses and
    state/local government entities.
  • The ADA applies to court programs and services

ADA Definition of Disability
  • a mental or physical impairment which
    substantially limits one or more major life
    activities, or
  • a history of such an impairment, or
  • being regarded as having such an impairment
  • 42 U.S.C. 12102(2)

Definition of Disability Part I
  • which substantially limits one or more major
    life activities.
  • Self care
  • Performing manual tasks
  • Walking
  • Seeing
  • Hearing
  • Speaking
  • Breathing
  • Learning
  • Working
  • Physical or mental impairment.
  • Paralysis
  • Blindness
  • Mental Illness
  • Addiction
  • Hypertension
  • Cancer
  • Etc.

Definition of Disability Part II
  • a record of having such an impairment,
  • Cancer in remission
  • Heart disease under control
  • Addiction
  • Psychiatric disability
  • Others.
  • or being regarded as having such an
  • Facial disfigurement
  • Eccentricity
  • Age deemed a disability
  • Others

State and Local Government Entities
  • The ADA applies to state and local governments
  • The ADA applies to court programs and services
  • Hearings and Trials
  • Clerks office
  • Court information (ex., summons, jury notice)
  • Any other court program or service
  • The ADA applies to court offices and staff
  • Generally, ADA requires courts to provide
    effective communication. TN law contains
    additional requirements for courts.

ADA Prohibits Discrimination
  • The ADA prohibits courts from discriminating
    in the operation of programs or services against
    a person due to disability.
  • 42 U.S.C. 12132, 12182(a)
  • 28 C.F.R. 35.130(ii)-(iv), 35.160(a)

What is disability related discrimination?
  • It is almost always discrimination to treat
    someone in a different way solely due to his or
    her disability.
  • Example It is discrimination for a court to
    refuse to allow a witness to testify solely
    because she is blind.

Relationship Between Discrimination and Effective
  • Effectively communicating with individuals
    without disabilities but NOT individuals with
    disabilities is different treatment due to
  • ADA regulations specifically require government
    entities (including courts) to provide effective
    communication to people with disabilities.
  • 28 C.F.R. 35.106(a)

What Kinds of Disabilities Impact Communication?
  • Many types of disabilities can impact
  • Disabilities which commonly impact communication
    include hearing disabilities, vision
    disabilities, speaking disabilities, and
    cognitive disabilities
  • Other disabilities, including physical
    disabilities and mental illness, can sometimes
    impact communication

People First
  • Remember that people with disabilities are first
    and foremost PEOPLE!
  • The importance of language when we talk about
    disabilities and people with disabilities.
  • People First Language ensures the person is
    emphasized first, not his or her disability.
  • Helps us avoid using outdated or negative terms
    such as handicapped or disabled.

Understanding People First Language
  • People First Language (Describes)
  • Person with a disability
  • People with disabilities
  • Uses a wheelchair
  • Has/with
  • Examples Child with autism, Friend with mental
    illness, etc
  • Language to Avoid (Defines)
  • Disabled
  • The handicapped
  • Wheelchair bound
  • Victim of/suffers from
  • Examples Child who suffers from autism, Friend
    who suffers from mental illness

Importance of Flexibility
  • ADA often requires courts to provide reasonable
    modifications(changes) or auxiliary aids/services
    to a person with a disability if necessary to
    ensure effective communication.
  • Generally, courts must provide these
    modifications or aids/services unless doing so
    will be a fundamental alteration in the
    program/service or constitute an undue burden (be
    a significant difficulty or expense when taking
    into account all court resources).
  • 42 U.S.C 12182(b)(2)(iii)
  • 28 C.F.R. 35.160(a)

Auxiliary Aids and Services
  • Services or devices that ensure
  • effective communication for individuals with
  • One size does NOT fit all
  • qualified interpreter
  • notetakers
  • screen readers
  • Braille items
  • open or closed captioning
  • video interpreting services
  • instant or text messaging
  • taped texts
  • exchange of written notes

Gesturing as Possible Communication
  • Be open to considering gestures as possible
    communication attempts. It can sometimes be
    frightening when people gesture dramatically if
    you dont know why, but this may be a way to try
    to communicate with you.
  • If you do not know why someone is gesturing, you
    can ask. If he/she doesnt respond, you can try
    writing very simple questions on a piece of
  • Some people who are non-verbal may use gestures.
    This does not mean they cannot hear.

  • When communicating with anyone whether by
    speaking or writing, it is generally best to keep
    your language as basic as possible. People tend
    to read at the sixth grade level or below and
    people with disabilities which impact their
    ability to communicate often read at an even
    lower grade level. This is often the case for
    people who are deaf.

Reading Level
  • Many word processing programs have a feature that
    will allow you to check the reading level of your
  • For example, readability statistics are an
    optional feature in Microsoft Words spell check

Information Can Be Simple
  • Example of standard language
  • Court will resume at 130 p.m.
  • All parties must return by no later than 130
  • Example of same ideas at sixth grade level
  • Court will start back at 130 p.m.
  • Parties must be back here by then.

Communication Needs of People with Other
  • People who are blind or have a visual disability
    may need you to provide effective communication
    of written material by reading the material to
    them, recording it on tape, providing it in large
    print or Braille, providing it in an electronic
    format that can be read by a computer program
    called a screen reader.
  • Generally, the more complex the material, the
    more important it is that you provide a copy
    instead of just reading it aloud.

Communication Continued
  • People with cognitive disabilities and traumatic
    brain injury may find it helpful if you break
    complex communications down into small parts or
    you may need to repeat the information more than
  • Some people find pictures may assist in
  • Some people may need more time to complete forms,
    answer questions, etc.
  • Some people may need more breaks during court

Keep in Mind
  • A disability that effects communication is not a
    reflection of the persons intelligence level.
  • Communication distance can be important when
    communicating with people with disabilities which
    affect their need for personal space. Ex. Person
    with autism.
  • Set up of a location or the presence of others
    may be important when communicating with people
    with disabilities which affect their need for
    reassurances of safety. Ex. Person with PTSD.

Introduction To Deaf Communication Issues
  • A person who is deaf may be carrying a card that
    provides instructions for requesting an
    interpreter from an area agency. However, not all
    people carry these cards.
  • It is generally not appropriate for family
    members or friends to interpret for the person
    who is deaf.
  • When speaking to a person through an interpreter,
    talk to the individual who is deaf and not the
  • Understand that nodding by a person who is deaf
    may be viewed as a sign of politeness by a person
    who is deaf and not recognized as a yes or
    positive response to a question.

Communicating with Someone Who is Deaf
  • Different types of sign language
  • American Sign Language (ASL)- Primary sign
    language used in the United States.
  • Signed English - Another type of sign language
    often used.
  • Manual Sign Language used by people who are
  • Other sign languages vary based on culture or
    country of origin.
  • Some need oral interpreters--
  • When arranging for an interpreter, it is
    considerate to ask which type of sign language a
    person uses.

Understanding ASL
  • Form of manual communication
  • Has its own grammatical structure which is very
    different from English.
  • ASL interpretation does not convey each spoken
  • For people who were born deaf or who became deaf
    as children, sign language is their primary
    language. English is their second language.

What Is Effective Communication?
  • The ADA makes clear that providing effective
    communication to people with disabilities means
    providing written or spoken communication that is
    as effective as communication to others without
  • 28 C.F.R. 35.106(a)

TN Law and Courts
  • T.C.A. 24-1-211
  • ADA requires effective communication usually
    means a sign language interpreter for someone
    who is deaf. TN law specifically requires state
    courts to provide sign language interpreters to
    people who are deaf. (in court and after case has
    been filed, for meetings to prepare for court )
  • So, TN courts do not have same discretion about
    providing sign language interpreters as entities
    that are only covered by ADA.

Providing Sign Language Interpreter Services
  • Court has to provide and pay for sign language
    interpreters (different from spoken language
  • In Court always required by TN law
  • For Court ordered classes and programs usually
    if necessary for effective communication--required
    by ADA
  • For meetings to prepare sometimes required by
    TN law
  • What about at clerks office? Usually not
  • Written notes or similar generally OK for short,
    simple communications such as filing documents,
    getting directions, etc.

Qualified Interpreter
  • According to the ADA, Qualified interpreter
    means an interpreter who, via video remote
    interpreting (VRI) service or an on-site
    appearance, is able to interpret effectively,
    accurately, and impartially, both receptively and
    expressively, using any necessary specialized
    vocabulary. Qualified interpreters include, for
    example, sign language interpreters, oral
    transliterators, and cued-language
  • 28 C.F.R. 35.104
  • TN law adds requirements on top of ADA
    requirements for qualified interpreters in court
    settings preference for certified interpreters
    in court settings

More on Qualified Interpreter
  • qualified does not always mean certified
    (however, TN law contains preference for
    certified interpreter in court)
  • qualified interpreter must be able to convey
    sign into speech, and speech into sign
  • Even if certified, a sign language interpreter is
    not qualified if individual with disability is
    unable to effectively understand that interpreter
    (for example, interpreter may not be familiar
    with vocabulary or may be hard to follow)

Asking court for Sign Language Interpreter, CART,
  • TN ADA Judicial Branch Protocol Form
  • Available at
  • http//www.tncourts.gov/administration/human-resou
  • Submit to Local ADA Coordinator or State ADA
    Coordinator (if local not available or not

Phone Calls with People who are Deaf or Hard of
  • Text Relay or Video Relay
  • Free Tennessee Relay Service (text relay, 1 (800)
    848-0299, more information http//www.state.tn.us
  • Free Sorenson Video Relay Service (video relay,
    1-866-FAST-VRS (1-866-327-8877), more
    information http//www.sorensonvrs.com/index.php
  • Note Most deaf people no longer use TTY and
    similar. Instead use relay.

Disability Law Advocacy Center of Tennessee
  • Website www.DLACTN.org
  • Phone 1-800-342-1660
  • TTY 1-888-852-2852
  • E-mail GetHelp_at_DLACTN.org
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