I was summoned to Jury duty. Being deaf I had the right to withdraw. But being Gary I decided that I wanted the experience (I have a big grin as I write that) Anyway I rang the courts through the relay service. Even before I had said anything through the relay service the court register said, “You can withdraw and anyway it is not possible for a deaf person to do jury duty”, or words to that effect. I asked why not and the register said, “Because we don’t have the facilities to meet your needs.”
Anyway I said that they could book captions or sign language interpreters and that doing so was easy. I said something along the lines that it was my right as a civilian to be able to participate in Jury duty if I so chose. This was enough for the register, obviously a junior, to handball me to the senior. He asked how the senior could call me back and I said for him to give me the number so I could call him. Too often you give numbers and they never call back and this is what I do to ensure that they do not fob me off. (Imagine me with another big grin) The junior then said that he would transfer me to the senior – quite why he could not do that in the first place I do not know. Of course I was having immense fun and wish I could have seen the juniors face at the other end as we communicated. At the same time I had some friends open on MSN and was copying and pasting the convo for their amusement. (Imagine me with an enormous grin)
Anyway the senior came on the line and the change was instant. He said it was no problem and asked what he needed to do. I gave him the interpreter booking contacts etc and within minutes he had actually contacted the service to try and secure a booking. As it turned out, because the notice was short (I received the jury letter while away for work) the shortage of interpreters meant that it was unlikely that the required number of level 3 interpreters could be secured for all the days required.
I have since emailed the register and withdrawn and thanked him for his prompt action and willingness to give it a go. I have requested that he allow me to meet him so that we can discuss the issue in more detail and so that I can inform him of the options and the processs etc.
It got me thinking that this is an area that many people who are deaaf who are disabled are probably being denied opportunities. It is certainly true that some will not want to do jury duty and it is equally true that some more adventerous souls like me will be more than interested in participating as is my right.
In the scheme of things this does not seem a big deal but if I were to be the accused or a defendent you can bet your bottom dollar that interpreters would be organised or captions would be organised IF requested. If not requested I shudder to think what would happen.
There are, of course, other issues for the courts beyond dury duty. Like what happens if interpreters are provided or captions for a deaf defendant and the deaf person has poor literacy and language development. I am sure there are similar situations for the disabled. I was at a talk about learning disabilities recently where the speaker pointed out that you can almost pick which people with learning disabilities will end up in jail by grade three and commented on the huge number of people with some form of disability or other who are in jail.
So apart from jury duty we would appear to have an enormous issue on our hands. While we are concentrating on what I call the BLUE RIBBON issues like interpreters, captioning, building access etc etc this is an area that does not get a lot of attention.
I wonder if this is something we need to pick up and discuss and see what can be done. Certainly while we concentrate on the Blue Ribbon issues we allow a lot to slip under the radar.