Affording Equal Access to Justice: The lawyer's responsibility to clients with disabilities.

Posted May 2014 in Disability by Andrea C. Farney

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires attorneys to provide equal access to potential clients with disabilities.  This means a lawyer has a legal duty to take steps to remove barriers to service or to provide alternative methods of service.  An example is that a lawyer must provide a qualified interpreter on-site or through video remote for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing.  Asking the client about their preferred method of communication is the best way to discover the type of interpreter required.  The Pennsylvania Office for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing has a website where lawyers can find certified interpreters.  Pennsylvania Bar Association members can also apply for a membership benefit called the Sign Language Interpreter/CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) Fund.  The Fund provides reimbursement of up to $150 for an interpreter used to meet with a client.  For clients with mobility disabilities, the best approach is to ask them how the lawyer can best meet their access needs.  The client is an expert on their needs and what is effective for them.  Remaining flexible is an important attribute for an attorney meeting their legal duty.  For example, an elevator may be out of order or may turn out not to be large enough to accommodate an individual.  Alternative meeting locations can be prearranged, making services available with minimal delay.

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