Inmates who are hearing impaired face considerable hurdles as far as their communication needs. It is difficult is normal situations for this segment of society to communication with others; it becomes even more problematic when in the restricted environment of a prison. This is due to a lack of knowledge of inmate rights and protocol by prison administration and prison attorneys when dealing with the hearing impaired. An attorney specializing in disability law may represent the state or the prison. This attorney can determine if the rights for inmates who are hearing impaired are being met. .
It is estimated that 30% to 40% of all inmates are hearing impaired. In addition, for 13% to 20% of that total, the hearing loss is significant. Hearing impaired inmates are guaranteed access rights under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Attorneys in disability law also know that Title II of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also set forth these same rights in local and state facilities. The assistance of a legal representative of the state, such as an attorney, is sometimes required so that the inmate can receive the access that he is entitled to under these acts. A major quandary among prison officials and their attorneys is the funding of these services. While the services are mandated by ADA, the funding for this services are not provided for by the act.
Right to an Interpreter
The hearing impaired is allowed equal access as well as an interpreter. Inmates who are deaf are entitled to sign language interpreters for educational programs, religious activities, medical consultation, parole hearings, counseling and other services given at the prison. A disability attorney is able to ascertain that these rights are being met.
Access to Adequate Telecommunications Equipment
Hearing impaired inmates have the right to make telephone calls. A prison facility must provide a teletypewriter (TTY) or other effective telecommunications device. Additionally, the prison must allow adequate time for the hearing impaired to use the device. Many times prisons will have strict limits on telephone calls such as a limit of 15 minutes of phone usage. However, the facility may need to extend this time for a deaf or hard-of-hearing inmate using a TTY. An attorney specializing in disability law will be able to determine the issue of access and if it has been violated. Additionally equipment that may be provided, at the request of a disability attorney, can include any of the following items geared towards communication of a hearing impaired person: note takers, computer-aided transcription services, written materials, telephone handset amplifiers, assistive listening devices, assistive listening systems, telephone compatible with hearing aids, closed caption decoders, open and closed captioning and videotext displays.
Give exception access to some phone service
Most prisons do not allow inmates’ access to “800” or “711” telephone numbers to reach a relay service. The hearing impaired must access those numbers to reach the statewide TTY or other relay service. A disability attorney will advise that those numbers are among the services for the hearing impaired that are mandated by Title IV of the ADA.