Joe Wilhelm Jr.
The Americans with Disabilities Act has been protecting citizens with physical or mental impairments for 20 years.
The Fourth Judicial Circuit works daily to ensure that protection is available in the courtroom.
“We want to make sure that litigants with disabilities have everything they need before they get into court,” said Caroline Emery, court counsel for the Fourth Judicial Circuit and a past president of The Jacksonville Bar Association. “We can do that by making information on accommodations as accessible as possible.”
The Florida Bar Rules of Judicial Administration Committee recently proposed substantial amendments to Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.540, “Notices to persons with disabilities.” The document provides guidelines for what is necessary to inform citizens how to request accommodations for disabilities.
The Florida Supreme Court approved the changes May 20 and the Fourth Judicial Circuit filed its “Second Amended Administrative Order No. 93-2” on July 6 to address the changes.
The Administrative Order states that “the Court’s programs, services and activities are to be readily accessible to all individuals with disabilities who timely request reasonable accommodations; nevertheless, even if the requests for ADA accommodations are untimely, the Court, through its ADA coordinator or designee, will attempt to grant reasonable requests for accommodations if at all possible.”
Also, notices of court proceedings to be held in a public facility and all processes compelling appearance at such proceedings shall include a statement explaining that services are available for persons with disabilities, who they can contact to request services, where the contact person is located and the time frame people have to submit a request.
Signs will be posted at the entrances and throughout each of the three County Courthouses in the Fourth Circuit (Duval, Clay and Nassau) listing the information.
The Court will spend about $4,000 to replace the current signs.
“The signs are a little expensive because they include braille,” said Emery.
The signs also needed to be changed because the number for Florida Relay Service for deaf, hard of hearing, deaf/blind, or speech-impaired has changed to 711.
Requests for accommodations are required to include a description of the assistance sought and the impairment, and the duration the assistance will be needed.
If the request is denied, the Court must respond to the applicant in writing to explain why the request was denied.
Requests for accommodations may include hearing devices, sign language interpreters, documents in braille and wheelchair access.