ACDL Asks Arizona Superior Courts to Improve Access to Justice for People with Disabilities
Court websites are a good place for parties to a lawsuit, witnesses, jurors, and court visitors with disabilities to get information about court services. Using several measures from the National Center for Access to Justice’s (NCAJ’s) Disability Access Index, ACDL recently surveyed Arizona County Superior Court websites. ACDL looked at whether the court websites listed information about how to request accommodations or report disability discrimination. ACDL wrote letters to the Presiding Judges in fourteen Arizona counties, asking that they take steps to improve access to this information.
NCAJ, a project of the Fordham Law School, states “justice depends on having a fair chance to be heard, regardless of who you are, where you live, or how much money you have. At a minimum, a person should be able to learn about her rights and then give effective voice to them in a neutral and nondiscriminatory, formal or informal, process that determines the facts, applies the rule of law, and enforces the result.”
The Justice Index measures Access to Justice (A2J). As NCAJ explains “for those who cannot see, hear, speak, or otherwise navigate a courthouse, or for those with emotional and cognitive challenges that make it difficult for them to participate in their own cases, access to justice depends on support from the justice system.”
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires state and local entities, including courts, to provide needed support in the form of:
- auxiliary aids and services, such as sign language interpreters or audio notices, people with sensory disabilities;
- program access for people with mobility disabilities; and
- reasonable modifications to policies, rules and practices to ensure an equal opportunity for people with disabilities.
Under the ADA, public entities must take steps to help people learn about their ADA rights, such as:
- appoint an ADA Coordinator to address disability access issues;
- provide notice about ADA rights; and
- make available information about the ADA Coordinator and grievance procedures.
ACDL asked the County Superior Courts to add the following information to their websites: the ADA Coordinator’s name and contact info, forms and instructions about how to request auxiliary aids and service, program access, reasonable modifications and other accommodations, and how to file a complaint with the court about disability discrimination. ACDL asked that the information be in one place and be no more than one click away from the home page.
Finally, ACDL asked that the courts include a video that interprets the written information into American Sign Language (ASL). A sample letter is here.
The survey revealed that the Maricopa County Superior Court already takes these steps.
ACDL legal interns Maura Hilser, a second-year law student at the James E. Rogers College of Law, and Ashley Cheff, a second-year law student at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, conducted the survey and helped write the letters.
By Maura Hilser and Rose Daly-Rooney, Legal Director.