Disability Awareness Month: Reasonable Accommodations in King County Superior Court
by Linda Ridge, Chief Administrative Officer, and Ronda Bliey, Public Access Specialist – King County Superior Court
Access to justice is a fundamental right of all people; however, for individuals with a sensory, cognitive, or physical disability, seeking access can be filled with challenges. Implemented in 2007, Washington State General Court Rule 33 (GR 33) was designed to assure that people with disabilities have equal and meaningful access to the judicial system.
Recognizing the important role that accommodations play in providing access to justice for individuals with disabilities, King County Superior Court hired Ronda Bliey to fill the newly created role of Public Access Specialist. Ronda comes to the position from Adult Drug Diversion Court, which utilized her talent for managing and supporting programs that respond to individual needs. Effective October 1, Ronda is the primary point of contact for the public when requesting disability accommodations under GR 33, in addition to her other responsibilities.
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.
- Publish instructions for requesting accommodation.
- Provide a request form for public use.
The establishment of the Public Access Specialist position is a practical and impactful action. It represents Superior Court’s intention to meet the standards of the rule in a robust and meaningful manner.
Requests for accommodation are assessed on a case-by-case basis. This is necessary because some requests are straightforward, such as providing an ASL interpreter. Others, however, take more time to investigate and resolve. This includes requests for legal assistance, for example. In her new role, Ronda is tasked with fully examining each case, finding workable solutions, and communicating with the requestors. In addition to working to expand accommodation resources, she will also spearhead development of improved tracking and reporting systems. Better tracking will help the court set priorities and lead to improved services and outcomes.
Coming to court to resolve personal and professional disputes can be stressful, filled with anxiety for anyone. Barriers the able-bodied take for granted add to the stress people with disabilities may experience in pursuing their court matters and accessing the court system. King County Superior Court remains determined to give good service to the community of people with disabilities and to the public at large.
Linda Ridge is Chief Administrative Officer for King County Superior Court. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ronda Bliey is Public Access Specialist for King County Superior Court. Email: email@example.com.
For more information on Superior Court’s public accommodation request process, see: https://www.kingcounty.gov/courts/superior-court/get-help/accommodation-requests.aspx