Using Technology to Improve Access to Justice for People with Disabilities
Table of Contents
What can I learn from this website?
This webpage was prepared by the Washington Assistive Technology Alliance (WATA) at the request and with the collaboration of the Washington State Access to Justice Board’s Access to Justice Technology Bill of Rights Committee. The purpose of this webpage is to provide basic information about assistive technology and other resources which may be useful in providing reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities who need to access the justice system, which includes but is not limited to the courts and legal services. The information is not exhaustive, but will provide you and your organization with a range of options and ideas to consider. Most products and services listed are available from more than one resource. We encourage you to seek out additional resources as necessary to ensure that you have located the best option and price. Inclusion on this webpage does not imply endorsement by WATA.
Neither is this information intended as an exhaustive description of the requirements of title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The U.S. Department of Justice, which is responsible for implementing and enforcing titles II and III of the ADA has a website that includes authoritative information on the legal and policy requirements of the ADA. This website is available at http://www.ada.gov.
What are some of the legal requirements that may apply when considering assistive technology?
Title II of the ADA states:
No qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs or activities of a public entity or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity. 42 USC 12132
Among other things, this “program access” requirement in the ADA requires state and local governments to:
Public entities are not required to make modifications that would fundamentally alter the nature of service or result in an undue burden. Any determination of an undue burden must consider all resources available for the funding and operation of the service, program or activity--- generally, making “undue burden” a quite difficult threshold to meet. In a substantial majority of cases, program access can be achieved without undue burden. The keys to successful implementation are attitude, planning, and preparation.
What are some factors we should consider as we plan, provide for, and deliver increased accessibility?
There are many factors that persons and organizations should consider when planning, providing for, and delivering increased accessibility. Here are a few to get you started.
Employees need to be trained so they:
Ideally, ADA accommodation requests should not come as an unpleasant surprise. It is important to engage in advance planning, which should include persons with disabilities and address the needs of all potential users—judges, jurors, attorneys, parties, witnesses and people who come for other services. Organizations need to learn about available resources and strategies for accommodations—including assistive technology solutions.
It is important to establish and communicate policies and procedures for accommodation requests (e.g., posters; notices in communications). Notices should explain who to contact to request accommodations.
Planning should be focused on providing equal and quality access. This can be delivered through a variety of means, including but not limited to:
For the remainder of this webpage, we will discuss the two items in the last bullet point on this list: auxiliary aids and services, and assistive technology. The links to products and services provided below will present greater description, detail, and other information about the aid, service and technology, as well as general price range information.
Title II of the ADA requires that public entities must provide "auxiliary aids and services as needed to ensure that communications with individuals with disabilities are as effective as its communications with individuals without disabilities. . ."
Some examples of and resources for auxiliary aids and services include:
· Large print and brailled materials (Louis Braille Center—Accepts print or electronic documents for transcription into Braille or large print.)
· Taped texts and audio recordings
· Sign language interpreters (Washington Interpreter/Captioner Referral Agencies)
· Real Time Captioning ( Washington Interpreter/Captioner Referral Agencies )
· TTY and Speech to Speech Relay Services (Speech to Speech Services)
· Telephone amplifiers and TTY's (The Hearing Store)
· Assistive Listening Devices and Systems (FM Systems) (The Hearing Store)
· Hearing aid compatible phones (The Hearing Store)
· Other effective means of making aurally delivered materials available to persons with hearing loss and visually developed materials available to individuals with vision loss
What is assistive technology?
Assistive technology (AT) is any device used by a person with a disability that increases the individual's ability or capacity for independent living, employment, education or community participation. The devices listed as auxiliary aids and services are considered to be assistive technology because they make it easier for some people with disabilities to access printed or spoken information.
Some other examples of assistive technology that are useful in accommodating people with disabilities include:
Assistive technology for computer work stations
There are no specific requirements in the ADA regarding accessibility of public computer work stations. However, if a work station is available to members of the public, it is important to also accommodate people with disabilities who need assistive technology in order to use the station to access information. We offer the following examples to get you started on making a public work station accessible through the provision of assistive technology. We recommend, however, that you seek knowledgeable consultation in configuring these or other products to work together--- especially if there are security constraints. WATA can provide technical assistance with selection and configuration of assistive technology for public access work stations.
Seating and Positioning (Ergonomics)
Seating and positioning should be adjustable for the individual user, making it more comfortable to sit and work at the computer. Select the following links to see examples of an ergonomic workstation and a chair.
These armrests can reduce strain on the neck, head and shoulders while working at a computer.
Technology for people who are blind or visually impaired
Large monitors are available from most computer vendors.
This monitor arm permits the user to position a computer monitor for ease of viewing.
This software allows enlargement of text and graphics, and adjustment of screen colors for best contrast. It also supports speech output.
These key labels have characters that are about 3 times larger than standard keyboard characters.
This software allows screen text and input to be read aloud through synthesized speech.
This software is used by blind individuals to convert text from a printed page to a computer file which can then be read using synthetic speech.
Technology for people with dexterity limitations
This keyboard is the same overall size as a standard keyboard but with 1” square keys. Useful for individuals with limited hand control.
This is an optical mouse which requires no internal ball, making it possible to use on a variety of surfaces. Useful for individuals with limited reach or coordination.
This compact 101-style keyboard is similar to a laptop keyboard but is more compact overall. Useful for individuals who have small hands or limited finger reach. The addition of a keyguard to this keyboard helps stabilize and position fingers or pointers.
A keyguard helps stabilize fingers or pointers.
A joystick that operates like a mouse, but offers more user control.
This software reads text out loud from the Windows clipboard using a synthesized voice to assist individuals who have difficulties with reading.
This software provides word prediction which makes writing easier for individuals with learning disabilities and individuals who have difficulty using the keyboard.
This powerful software recognizes scanned text while retaining layout and color, providing study aids, such as highlighting, bookmarking, text and voice notes, to effectively enhance reading and learning.
Here are links to other resources that may assist you in identifying accommodation strategies and resources.
Sample Court Policies and Procedures