Reasonable Accommodations in King County Superior Court
This story is part of our series celebrating Disability Awareness Month.
Access to justice for all persons is a fundamental right; however, for individuals with a sensory, mental or physical disability, this access can be filled with challenges. Implemented in 2007, Washington State General Court Rule 33 (GR 33) was designed to assure that persons with disabilities have equal and meaningful access to the judicial system.
GR 33 requires courts to provide prompt response to requests for accommodation in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Washington State Law Against Discrimination (RCW 49.60). The rule also requires each court in Washington state to designate a principal point of contact for the public in need of accommodation from the court, and must publish instructions and a request form for the public to use. Courts are permitted to request additional information about an individual’s qualifying disability to assist in determining the appropriate accommodation. The rule applies not only to accommodations needed in court hearings and trials, but also addresses access to court programs and services.
Once determined to be reasonable and for a qualifying disability under the ADA, accommodations in the form of auxiliary aids and services are provided at no charge to the requestor and may include use of equipment or devices, materials in alternative formats, qualified interpreters, and closed captioning, among others.
And there is a great deal of need for accommodation in the community accessing court programs and services. In 2018, King County Superior Court’s Access Coordinator fielded over 115 requests for accommodation, and that figure does not capture all accommodations provided by other departments within the court such as Assistive Listening Devices coordinated directly through the Court Operations Department or ASL interpreters scheduled through the Office of Interpreter Services. The number of requests is expected to continue to rise in 2019 and beyond as word circulates within the community that such assistance is available.
Coming to court to resolve one’s personal and professional disputes can be stressful, filled with anxiety over the very issues the court is helping to resolve. Having a disability shouldn’t add to that anxiety or put an individual at a disadvantage, and the assistance the courts have implemented through GR 33 deliver helpful measures to mitigate those effects.