Eliminating Discrimination in Policies & Practices
Is a court required to modify its policies whenever requested to accommodate individuals with disabilities?
A court must eliminate any eligibility criteria for participation in programs, activities, and services that screen out or tend to screen out persons with disabilities, unless it can establish that the requirements are necessary for the provision of the service, program or activity. An example of an inappropriate eligibility criterion would be an automatic exemption from jury service for individuals with hearing or visual disabilities. A public entity must reasonably modify its policies, practices or procedures to avoid discrimination. If the public entity can demonstrate that a particular modification would fundamentally alter the nature of its service, program, or activity, it is not required to make that modification. For example, where a local zoning ordinance requires a setback of 12 feet from the curb in the central business district and a courthouse requires a variance to encroach on the setback by three feet to install a ramp to the front entrance, granting the variance may be a reasonable modification of town policy for a county courthouse. On the other hand, where an individual with an environmental illness requests a court to prohibit the use of perfume or other scented products by its employees who come into contact with the public, adopting such a policy may not be considered a “reasonable” modification of the court’s personnel policy.*
What are other examples of the types of modifications in policies and practices that would be reasonable in most cases?
Examples include rewriting policies that categorically exclude people with disabilities from serving on juries, such as people who are deaf or blind; permitting a witness or spectators with diabetes to consume candy as needed to maintain blood sugar levels; or explaining the words on an instruction sheet to a citizen who is mentally retarded.*
Are courts required to accommodate service animals?
Yes. The service animal must be permitted to accompany the individual with a disability to all areas of the facility where members of the public, including people with business before the court, are allowed to go. An individual with a service animal may not be segregated from other people. *
Is the court responsible for the animal while the person with a disability is engaged in court business?
No. The care or supervision of a service animal is solely the responsibility of his or her owner. The court is not required to provide care, food, or a special location for the animal.*
What if the service animal barks or growls at other people or otherwise acts out of control?
You may exclude any animal, including a service animal, from your facility when that animal’s behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. For example, any service animal that displays vicious behavior towards staff or members of the public may be excluded. You may not make assumptions, however, about how a particular animal is likely to behave based on past experience with other animals. Each situation must be considered individually. Although a court may exclude any service animal that is out of control, it should give the individual with a disability who uses the service animal the option of continuing to conduct his or her business without having the service animal on the premises.*
Can the Judicial Branch ADA Coordinator release a prospective juror from jury duty?
No. The ADA Coordinator can ensure that persons with disabilities are afforded the opportunity to serve as jurors. However, an ADA Coordinator is not authorized to release a person from jury duty because of a disability. Persons who are seeking release from jury duty should speak with the county’s jury coordinator or court clerk.