Information about deaf access to legal services

I was asked about whether we have the technology to meet the needs of deaf clients. This requires some research, which I am still in the process of doing. I have collected some very relevant materials which I am posting here.

Every advocate and employee who may interact with a deaf client should be reading these materials so that they are prepared before meeting with deaf clients. While I do not have all the answers about how to adequately handle interactions with deaf clients, and that should be handled by the committee developing the Language Access Policy, these materials are very useful, and indicate generally that you should first consult with the client about what they feel would be the most effective way to communicate with them about their case, and then use that method as your primarily means of communication. ASL interpretters appear to be the MOST effective way of communicating with clients about complex legal issues, if the client communicates via ASL, but these materials suggest we take our cues from the individual client.

There are also various telephone relay options, and I have provided materials about that as well. Many of these are technologies provided via our tax dollars, and require no specialized equipment be purchased, or even any cost to the users, but they do require that the employee understand what the client is talking about when the client requests that these services be used. The best known technology is Maryland Relay, but there are others that may be more appropriate, or preferred by the client, and employees need to familiarize themselves with these technologies in order to serve our clients.

Directly relevant is the article Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deaf/Blind clients: A quick reference for Legal Aid Offices. The article is by Sharon Caserta, who wrote the Handbook below. This is a Clearinghouse Review article, so I cannot attach it. We have an account with Clearinghouse Review, so Legal Aid attorneys can, from their own office computers, go to this link:, to download the report to read it. It is one of several articles in the "sidebars" section of that issue.

The attached documents include explanations of how some of the different telephone relay services work, services other than what Maryland Relay provides.  They can help you understand what resource a client is asking you to use does, as well as explaining how it works.  The FCC website below is where I got some of these, and it provides a lot of good information about other technologies, as well as about the companies that provide these services.

See also these links:

Deaf-Hard-of-Hearing-Handbook-Caserta.pdf263.81 KB
Suggested-Best-Practices.pdf249.77 KB
Serving-the-Client-Who-Is-Deaf-UBJ.pdf505.71 KB
FCC-info-TRS.pdf723.63 KB
FCC-info-VRS.pdf554.51 KB
FCC-info-IP-Relay.pdf430.69 KB
FCC-MD-TRS-page.pdf276.1 KB
i711-IP-relay-service.pdf1.54 MB


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