Blog 13 July 3, 2014

When I was a student in the Court Reporting and Captioning program at Cuyahoga Community College, I had to listen to a lot of testimony in order to learn how to voice and transcribe those documents properly.  It wasn’t always easy to keep up in the beginning, especially with the fast exchange between the lawyers and the witnesses, known in court reporting parlance as “Q & A.”  It was very challenging to voice correctly and complete a verbatim transcript that would be acceptable to the Court.

After getting more conversant with court testimony and lawyers’ styles of questioning, I listened to a lot of what was going on in those dictation files, and it made me think what it would feel like if you are deaf or hard of hearing and had to go to court.  Or, worse yet, you were accused of a crime and interrogated without an accommodation that works for you.

It’s frightening and intimidating to all of us to be questioned by the police or lawyers regarding a crime, but can you imagine how you would feel if you were deaf or hard of hearing?  Of course, police departments and courts understand that it is imperative to provide an accommodation for anyone with a disability, and certainly they would make whatever options they have available to the deaf or hard of hearing client.  What I think about is whether the accommodation offered totally meets the needs of the deaf or hard of hearing person who is in a very stressful situation and needs the best and most effective accommodation possible.  And it seems I’m not the only person who is concerned.  Check out this article about a judge in California who has been working to make sure deaf and hard of hearing clients get a fair shake in his court system: http://www.calbarjournal.com/January2014/TopHeadlines/TH1.aspx

There have been instances when getting a sign language interpreter on short notice has been an ordeal, and can delay proceedings or cause problems for a speedy trial.  There’s even controversy about how sign language can be used in the courtroom, based on this article about a case in Maryland: http://www.fredericknewspost.com/news/crime_and_justice/courts/courtroom-sign-language-restrictions-raise-concerns/article_fbb73837-446e-5ce5-965f-c375c6542ef5.html.

And what if the person requiring the accommodation is a late-deafened adult who does not know sign language?  This is where CART, (communication access real-time translation), can be a godsend for police or court officials, as it can be done remotely and quickly, and provide both officials and clients with a nearly verbatim transcript of the conversation.

And it’s not just in a “Law & Order” setting where CART can be effective, even for those who are culturally Deaf.  Even just going to talk to a lawyer in an office about mundane legal issues can be stressful when you are deaf or hard of hearing, and CART can ease that process.  In fact, I often think CART is the universal solution for legal and medical visits, since it will work for both culturally Deaf as well as late-deafened clients.  It’s easy to use, it’s got a short turnaround time, and you get a transcript of the entire session.  And that can be really invaluable from a legal point of view.  Case closed!


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