Hearing Loss and the Courtroom
Can I Serve on a Jury if I Have a Hearing Loss?
Okay, so you go to your mailbox and find a summons for jury duty. Now what? You could easily get out of serving by simply using your hearing loss. It's hard to offer equal justice to a litigant if you can't hear the courtroom proceedings or discussions among your fellow jurors. However, if you decide that jury duty is in fact every citizens "right," which includes you, then you need to consider a few equalizers when providing your service on a jury. Let's take a look at some things that can help with hearing loss and the courtroom.
Advocating for the Rights of Hard of Hearing People
People with a Hearing Loss are Protected Under the ADA
When approaching jury duty from a stance of equality, you have an opportunity to make sure that the courts are in complete compliance with The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which was enacted in 1990, and protects people with physical or mental disabilities. It is easy to see that most courthouses have installed ramps for wheelchair access, and have employed sign language translators for people who are deaf. What may be missing from these same courthouses however, are assistive listening devices for those who are hard of hearing.
How Should I Respond to a Voice Mail Court Summons?
Because so many court systems use voice mail as a way to respond to a summons, it can be very hard for a hearing challenged person to act efficiently. Some people can get a friend or family member to help understand the message, or use a relay service. But shouldn't there be another option in place for your situation? Well, there is. You can send a return postcard to the commissioner of jurors. Making sure you communicate your full needs is vital!
More than 28 million Americans have a hearing loss; 80% of those affected have irreversible and permanent hearing damage.
Which Hearing Devices Do I Need for Jury Duty?
In cases where you wish to serve jury duty, you must make clear what your specific hearing needs are going to be when serving in the courtroom setting. You should respond to a summons stating that you can serve, providing that the the facility has assistive listening systems, communication access realtime translation (CART), or other devices that you can use to understand the proceedings with your type of hearing loss.
Hearing Loss Symbol
Posted Assistive Listening Devices Signs at the Courthouse
When you get to the courthouse, you will want to scan the area for signs that are posted which indicate where assistive listening devices are in place—which courtrooms they can be found (not all courtrooms have them), where they are stored, how they function, and so on. Do not expect that all of the courtroom officers or clerks know anything about these devices. Usually one person in the facility has the answers, and this person may not be working the day you are serving jury duty. So, to make sure everything is in place on your day, you have to give them plenty of notice, and your exact needs. You may need to get a little demanding to make certain the system works properly before any of the proceedings start. Remember this is your right, and thus you have the right to serve equally. Meaning; you must be provided the proper tools to complete your service effectively as indicated in your acceptance postcard to the Commissioner of Juries.
What You Think Really Does Matter!
Do you know someone who has had a difficult time serving jury duty because of a hearing loss?
What Is CART?
The National Court Reporters Association works hard to keep listening devices up to date for those with a hearing loss. They have created and installed very modern technologies that help with communications in the courtroom for everyone participating in the case, litigants, judge, jurors, lawyers and even those who are observing from the audience. Court reporters use CART, the instant transcription of spoken words into English text, using a steno-type machine, laptop computer, and real-time software. The information can be delivered to a monitor, printer, captured on disks, or even printed in Braille within seconds. CART is specifically recognized by the ADA as the premier and effective tool in courtrooms. This technology is primarily used by people who are late-deafened, hard-of-hearing, oral deaf, or those who have cochlear implants.
Know Your Rights
Don't let your hearing loss become a barrier between you and your right to serve the community. We are all guaranteed equal rights, and the hearing disabled should never be hindered from serving on a jury simply because of this loss. Stand up for yourself, make clear your requirements and rights under the ADA to the Jury Commissioner. Check in early so you can find your courtroom, and assure that your assistive hearing equipment is in place and functioning appropriately for your needs. You deserve to have everything you need to serve on any jury. Your legal right to these resources allows you to capitalize on your abilities, rather than be hindered by your disability. How you use your rights is up to you.