Deaf In Prison: Prison Life and the Americans With Disabilities Act

Posted on June 11, 2012 by


by BitcoDavid* of

There are two major problems with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Primarily, it is technically obsolete. The act predates the Internet, so it doesn’t provide for such essential services as videophone interpreting. Most Deaf can’t use TTY phones, because they involve typing, which brings us back to the initial communication problems of the illiterate and semi-literate.

Written notices like this court docket seem to make sense as an accommodation for the Deaf – until you learn that Sign is not the same as English and there are high rates of illiteracy. Image: CrimeDime

In fact, the Act does very little to address the educational deficits borne by the majority of Deaf. Written signs and cards will be utterly useless to many deaf individuals. Cards were printed up, at one point, containing the Miranda warning. The idea would be that those who couldn’t hear their rights being read to them could read them off the card.

Recent studies show that someone needs to have attained an 11th grade reading level to be able to understand some cards. Since a large number of Deaf can’t read past the 3rd grade level, the cards are unintelligible to them. Only an interpreter can put this stilted language into terms that the average deaf individual can understand.

The other problem with the ADA is that it’s terribly un-enforced or under-enforced. The ADA costs money. States complain at the simpler requirements such as ramps and handrails. To equip already financially strapped institutions with special phones, radios, TVs, expensive interpreters and highly trained officers is out of the question.

BitcoDavid is a blogger, administrator, and primary contributor to Originally an a/v and computer engineer, he became interested in Deaf advocacy through his clients at DeafInPrison. DeafInPrison also features Dr. McCay Vernon – a psychologist and author, Pat Bliss – a paralegal that has been active in cases, Joanne Greenberg – an advocate and author, and Jean F. Andrews – a university professor and author.

Editor’s note: The blogosphere is home to many sites that work to educate and reform the criminal justice system. is one outstanding example. Through getting to know the site’s webmaster, CrimeDime took an interest in their work. We asked several questions with the idea of doing an interview, but it turns out there’s so much to discuss on this topic that a series of separate posts made more sense.

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