Learning from Civil Rights Lawsuits: Effective Communication with Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Blind, and Low Vision Incarcerated People

Wednesday, November 16, 2022


As the portion of people with communication disabilities in jails and prisons across the United States continues to grow, correctional entities must develop robust policies to ensure compliance with federal anti-discrimination law and minimize harm. A new white paper produced by the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse draws lessons from recent litigation by deaf and blind people in jails and prisons across the United States and proposes comprehensive policy reform. This presentation summarizes the requirements of federal anti-discrimination law for jails and prisons in this context, describes recent litigation and reform efforts, and presents an overview of the model policies for jails and prisons to promote robust compliance with federal anti-discrimination law. The policies, endorsed by the National Association of the Deaf and the National Federation of the Blind, address everything from intake procedures to staff training to provision of medical devices, auxiliary aids and services, and reasonable modifications and accommodations. They are intended as a template for correctional administrators, legislators, and advocates who are working to change jail and prison policy, but many will be applicable in other contexts.

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Tessa Bialek, Managing Attorney, Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse, University of Michigan

Amy Robertson, Partner, Fox & Robertson, PC.