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Legal Systems Accessibility Task Force

Division of Community Health Promotion


The Florida Coordinating Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing formed The Legal System Accessibility Task Force (LSATF) to address communication and access issues for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing when they come in contact with the legal system. The concept behind the task force is to work collaboratively with stakeholders to directly improve access to needed legal services.

The LSATF membership is diverse, and comprises of members of FCCDHH, as well as representatives from the Department of Corrections, Attorney General’s Office, Office of the Public Defender, Florida Corrections Accreditation Commission, the Florida Bar, Disability Independence Group, CART Providers, Florida Court Reporters’ Association, Sign-language interpreters, Florida Registry for Interpreters of the Deaf, the Deaf-Blind community, Department of Children and Families, selected County 911 agencies, The Sheriff’s Department, Legal Aid , Hearing Loss Association of Florida, Association of Police Departments, Administrative Office of the State Courts, and university-based Legal Interpreter Training programs. (See members list at the end of this page.)

The Legal System Accessibility Task force met for the first time in August of 2007 in Jacksonville. At that session an introductional overview of deaf culture, hard of hearing issues and the needs of the deaf/blind community were addressed. Attorney Robert Mathers of the DOJ was the guest speaker, who spoke about obligations of stakeholders in the legal field pursuant to the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehab Act to assist this task force as they began this work. Since then the LSATF meets approximately every 3- 4 months to review efforts on state wide compliance.

The task force has been successful in making a number of collaborative improvements for the citizens of Florida. These include providing training to ASL interpreters working in legal settings, additional ADA accreditation criteria to obtain detention facility accreditation, the creation of a manual to assist Florida Bar members to effectively work with deaf, hard of hearing and deaf/blind clients, an automated system to verify the credentials of ASL interpreters available to the legal system, training to court ADA coordinators, presentations at law enforcement conferences and others.

One of the task force’s larger current undertakings was to pursue the development and production of an instructional DVD with an accompanying written training guide to assist law enforcement more effectively address the needs of the deaf and hard of hearing. This material was developed in partnership with the Deaf Service Center of Palm Beach County. Funding for the collaboration has come from the FCCDHH and The Florida Bar Foundation.  A web-enabled, captioned version of this video is expected to be available soon.

Now completed and available for download from this page, the training manual and slide show detail the obligations of law enforcement under ADA. View the Slide Show.  View the Training Manual.  The instructional material includes discussions as to the legal obligations pursuant to the ADA, due process issues, communication strategies, special considerations for persons with different needs, and service animals. Additional information will be provided as to how extra copies can be obtained as funding becomes available to produce them.  For now, please feel free to use the downloads, with proper attribution.

The Legal Systems Accessibility Task Force wishes to recognize and thank the following individuals and organizations who have so generously donated their time and intellectual capital.

Task Force Members and Associate Members:
Kim Bogart, Florida Corrections Accreditations Commission, Inc.; Hugh Cotney, Esq., The Florida Bar; Tanya Ward English, CART Providers and Florida Court Reporters Association; Joan Haber, Hearing Loss Association of Florida (HLA-FL); Debbie Howells, Florida State Court System; John Jackson, Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF); Ken Kellum, ADA Coordinator, 20 Circuit; Richard Komando, Guardian Ad Litem Program (GAL); Sue Ann Weber, Ph.D., Guardian Ad Litem Program (GAL); Sheila Wolfe, Florida Association of Court Clerks and Comptrollers; Shelia A. Sims, First Judicial Circuit; Chief Justice Lewis, Florida Supreme Court; George Richards, Office of the Attorney General; Len Roberson, Legal Interpreter Training; Martie Taylor, Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC); Emily Taylor Snell, Florida Outreach Project; Chris Wagner, Florida Association of the Deaf (FAD); Clay Walker, Florida Sheriff’s Association; Pat Welte, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office; Denise Whisenant, Disability Independence Group (DIG); Bill White, Office of the Public Defender; Sharon Caserta, Esq., Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Inc.; Lisa Schaefermeyer, Florida Registry of Interpreters of the Deaf; Mary Grace Tavel, Florida Coordinating Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing; Valerie Stafford-Mallis, Florida Coordinating Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Members of the Video Subcommittee:
Joan Haber, Judy Martin, Len Roberson, Emily Taylor-Snell, Hugh Cotney, Clay Walker, Debbie Howells, Bill White, Tanya Ward English, Gayl Hardeman, Lois Maroney, Valerie Stafford-Mallis

FAD representation:
Chris Wagner, Sarah Harris, Mary Moore

Additional Resources

*Note: This page contains materials in the Portable Document Format (PDF). The free Adobe Reader may be required to view these files.