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Hearing Loss and the Courtroom

The author's background includes law enforcement and U.S. military service. She enjoys writing about canine behavior and breeding chickens.

Can you be on a jury if you have hearing loss?

Can you be on a jury if you have hearing loss?

Can I Serve on a Jury if I Have Hearing Loss?

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 citizen's 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!

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 facility has assistive listening systems, communication access real-time translation (CART), or other devices that you can use to understand the proceedings with your type of hearing loss.

International symbol of access for hearing loss

International symbol of access for hearing loss

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. This means that you must be provided the proper tools to complete your service effectively as indicated in your acceptance postcard to the Commissioner of Juries.

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, judges, 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, or printer, captured on disks, or even printed in Braille within seconds. CART is specifically recognized by the ADA as the premier and most 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, and 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.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Comments for "Hearing Loss and the Courtroom"

Linda Fournier from New Jersey on August 09, 2012:

I have just had my first experience with my hearing impairment and the courtrve known hoom; it was stressful and at times awkward. Iwish I had read your hub before reporting for jury duty as I would have been better prepared to ask for an assistive device to aid in understanding the testimony. I was excused from serving.

CASE1WORKER from UNITED KINGDOM on April 18, 2012:

I have a bit of an insight into this problem having worked in the Crown Court system in England for five years. Luckily our court was fitted with a recording system which also ran the inductive loop. I had a connector around my neck( rather than in my ears) and by putting my hearing aids to the T position I was able to hear really clearly- In fact I probably heard too much ( judge to clerk- any more water, clerk to judge- only the fizzy, your honour, judge to clerk ******!!!

I often find that institutions with loops either do not maintain them or do not operate them correctly which is a pain. Thanks for an interesting hub

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on April 16, 2012:

theclevercat~ You are so right! It can become a very isolating debility, straining relationships to their end. Understanding the difficulties will hopefully reduce the isolation and struggles. Thank you for sharing your thoughts TCC, always glad to see you in the hubhood!


India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on April 16, 2012:

Rosemay50~ Happy to bring the topic into the light. It is so east to overlook hearing loss-it is known as the invisible disability. If you can't see it, it must not be a problem. The frustration surrounding it has moved me for years. My dad has the affliction, and I can often see his frustration because of it. Thank you for commenting.


India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on April 16, 2012:

incomeguru~ It makes me very happy that you found benefit in the hub. Hearing loss in a frustrating matter for those who must contend with it daily. And when in a courtroom, it must be ten times worse! Thank you for your comments.


India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on April 16, 2012:

Chatkath~ Thank you so much. I am glad you find the hub up to your high standards. I hope it help someone! Always nice to see you.


India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on April 16, 2012:

Happyboomernurse~ My dad has had struggles with courtroom listening, and it was very frustrating for him. Thank you very much for leaving your remarks! I am always so happy to see when you have made it by!


Rachel Vega from Massachusetts on April 15, 2012:

Very, very interesting hub. Knowing that these invisible difficulties exist makes sufferers' plights more understandable. Excellent job! Voted up and interesting.

Rosemary Sadler from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand on April 12, 2012:

A well written and researched hub. I had never thought of this being a problem before, sometime we do overlook some of the most important issues.

Thank you for bringing this to our attention

Oyewole Folarin from Lagos on April 12, 2012:

Very interesting suggestions, i have benefitted immensely by reading this hub, and i was totally engaged reading all the content. Thanks!

Kathy from California on April 11, 2012:

What an interesting topic on a perhaps under addressed issue K9. Thank you for sharing this and providing such excellent resources! Up and useful!

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on April 11, 2012:

What a great article. I had never thought about this issue before and learned a lot from reading your well researched and comprehensive hub.

Voted up, useful and interesting.

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on April 11, 2012:

Pam~ Thrilled to see you today! My dad gave me the idea as he always finds the prospect too much to deal with and bows out of jury duty--because he can't hear the full measure of detail in the courtroom. I hope this help someone. I appreciate that you made it by for a little courtroom chat! ;)


India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on April 11, 2012:

Hi CC~ Thanks for making it by and commenting. You are right, it is very easy to forget about a simple need if we ourselves do not struggle with it, and if it is something we cannot see outright, such as a hearing loss. I am glad you think the subject is worth the read.


Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on April 11, 2012:

I never thought about a hearing loss as an impediment to be on a jury. Very interesting hub.

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on April 11, 2012:

Very informative, K9. We so often overlook the needs of others if we don't have these needs ourselves. I can imagine that jury duty is difficult enough without having to deal with hearing loss, too. Thank you for calling attention to this issue. :)