Recognizing Physical or Mental Impairments
Examples of Physical or Mental Impairments
* A person who has epilepsy and uses medication to control seizures or a person who walks with an artificial leg is considered to have an impairment, even if the medicine or prosthesis reduces the impact of that impairment.
* Simple physical characteristics such as eye or hair color, left handedness, or height or weight within a normal range are not impairments.
* Personality traits such as poor judgment, quick temper, or irresponsible behavior are not impairments unless they are a symptom of a psychological disorder.
* A person who cannot read due to dyslexia is an individual with a disability because dyslexia is a learning disability. However, a person who cannot read because he or she dropped out of school is not an individual with a disability. Lack of education is not an impairment.
* A prison record is not an impairment.
* Generally, stress and depression are not considered impairments. However, if a person is diagnosed by a psychiatrist as having an identifiable stress disorder, this is an impairment that may be a disability. A person suffering from general stress because of job or personal life pressures is not considered to have an impairment.
* A person who has a contagious disease may have an impairment. Infection with HIV is an impairment. An individual with tuberculosis which affects the respiratory system has an impairment.
Examples of "Substantially Limits"
* An individual who sustains a back injury that results in considerable pain and restricts the ability to sit, walk, stand, or participate in recreational activities is an individual with a disability. An individual who sustains a back injury, but is not restricted in any major life activity by that injury, is not considered an individual with a disability.
* Temporary, non-chronic impairments that have little or no long-term impact usually are not disabilities covered by the Act.
* Broken limbs, sprains, concussions, appendicitis, common colds, or influenza are not disabilities covered by the Act.
Examples of "Record of a Substantially Limiting Condition"
* A person with a history of cancer, heart disease, or other debilitating illness, whose illness is cured, controlled, or in remission, or who has a history of mental illness.
* A person who has been misclassified or misdiagnosed as having a disability such as a developmental disability or a learning disability.
* Someone who has been labeled mentally retarded.
* Someone who has formerly been a patient at a mental institution and was misdiagnosed, but the misdiagnosis has not been removed from the records.
* Someone who has been hospitalized for cocaine addiction, has been successfully rehabilitated, and has not engaged in the illegal use of drugs since receiving treatment.
Examples of "Regarded as Substantially Limited"
* Someone rumored to have the HIV virus regardless of the truth of the rumor.
Mental Illness and Mental Retardation
Examples of Auxiliary Aids and Services
Chapter 916, Florida Statutes, states that if the court believes a defendant may be mentally retarded, the court shall refer that individual to the Developmental Services Program Office in the local HRS district for further evaluation. Though not an exclusive list, the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services provided the following guidelines to assist the courts in making a general assessment of a person's disability. It is important to distinguish between the two disabilities in order to provide the appropriate necessary assistance or auxiliary aids or services.
Persons with a Mental Illness
* Can be of any level of intelligence
* May exhibit sporadic, unpredictable, inappropriate behavior
* Sometimes need therapy, medication, or treatment
Persons Who Are Mentally Retarded
* Are of sub-average intelligence
* Exhibit non-episodic behavior
* Possess limited vocabulary
* Have difficulty understanding or answering questions
* Say what they think others want to hear or mimic responses or answers
* Conceal inability to read or write
* May not understand their rights
* May fail to appreciate seriousness or consequences of situations
* Seem eager to please
More Examples of Courtesies
Assistive Listening Devices
Some individuals who are hearing impaired use hearing aids. Individuals with more severe hearing losses may add an "audio loop." In this system, the speaker talks into a microphone connected to an amplifier. Sound is sent through a cable or "loop" placed around the courtroom. If the listener's device has a telecoil ("T" switch), he or she can sit within the loop area and receive the amplified speech by turning on the "T" switch.
Audio Tapes/Talking Books
Written materials may be put on cassette tapes for persons with visual disabilities.
After a computer file has been converted through special software, it can be printed in braille on a braille printer. The braille document should be proofread by a person skilled in braille.
Real-Time Transcription Services
Real-time transcription services involve a specially trained court reporter, transcription machine, computer, and monitor. The court reporter inputs information in shorthand on the keyboard and it is electronically transmitted to a computer that translates the phonetic entries to English, which is then shown on a monitor. Please refer to the guidelines contained in the Florida State Courts System Policy on Court Real-Time Transcription Services for Persons Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (Appendix F) for further information.
Infra-Red Assistive Listening Systems
An infra-red system uses wireless amplifying devices that transmit sound in the form of light waves. The system consists of a transmitter and receiver. The receiver is portable, and the user may sit anywhere in the room. The transmitters can be attached to walls or made portable.
Kurzweil Reading Machine/Optical Scanner
This machine converts written materials into voice transmissions.
Large Print Materials
Converting smaller print into a larger font assists not only people with visual impairments, but also people with cognitive impairments. The recommended style for large print materials is clear serif typeface in at least 18-point type, using short paragraphs.
Open and Closed Captioning
In open-captioning, a script of the speaker's message always appears at the bottom of a video screen while that person is speaking. In closed-captioning, the script at the bottom of the screen will appear only if a decoder is used. Open-captioning is also beneficial to persons for whom English is a second language.
An oral interpreter silently mouths words spoken to enable a lip-reader to understand what is being said by people who are seated too far away to enable direct lip-reading.
A qualified interpreter is someone who is able to interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially, both receptively and expressively, using any necessary specialized vocabulary. American Sign Language is the most common sign language used by persons who are deaf or hard of hearing. However, persons who are deaf or hard of hearing may use any one or a combination of several sign languages to communicate, including home signs unique to that individual. It is imperative that the sign language interpreter be skilled in the language used by the individual receiving the service. Please refer to the Proposed Guidelines for Provision of Interpreters for Persons with Hearing Impairments (Appendix G) for further information.
A "telecommunication device for the deaf" uses graphic communication in the
transmission of signals through a wire or radio control system.
Wireless FM System
This system requires that a speaker talk into a special transmitter unit that sends the sounds directly to the listener, who wears a receiver on a neck loop and a hearing aid with a telecoil.
Persons with Mobility Aids
* Enable persons who use crutches, canes, or wheelchairs to keep them within reach.
* Be aware that some wheelchair users may choose to transfer themselves out of their wheelchairs into an office chair for the duration of their visit.
* When speaking to a person in a wheelchair for more than a few minutes, sit in a chair. Place yourself at that person's eye level to facilitate conversation.
* If the person is accompanied by an animal companion, let him or her control the animal. Do not pet or play with the animal.
Persons with Visual Impairments
* When greeting a person with a visual impairment, always identify yourself and introduce anyone else who might be present.
* When conversing in a group, give a vocal cue by announcing the name of the person to whom you are speaking.
* If the person does not extend a hand (to shake hands), extend a verbal welcome.
* When offering seating, place the person's hand on the back or arm of the seat. A verbal clue may be helpful as well.
* Let the person know if you move or need to end the conversation.
* Allow a person with a visual impairment to take your arm (at or below the elbow). This will enable you to guide rather than propel or lead the person.
* If the person is accompanied by an animal companion, let him or her control the animal. Don't pet or play with the animal.
Persons with Speech Impediments
* Give your undivided attention when talking with a person who has a speech impediment.
* Ask short questions that require short answers or a nod of the head.
* Do not pretend to understand if you do not. Try rephrasing what you wish to communicate, or ask the person to repeat what you do not understand.
* Do not raise your voice. Most people with speech impediments can hear and understand perfectly well.
* Keep your manner encouraging rather than correcting.
* Exercise patience do not attempt to speak for someone with a speech difficulty.
Individuals Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
* If you need to attract the attention of someone with a hearing impairment, touch/tap the person lightly on the shoulder.
* Some individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing read lips. Always look directly at a person and speak clearly at a normal pace.
* Place yourself facing the light source and keep your hands away from your mouth when speaking.
* Shouting does not help and can be detrimental. Only raise your voice when requested. Brief, concise written notes may be helpful.
* When speaking through an interpreter, speak to and look at the person with the disability, not at the companion or interpreter.
* In the United States, some persons with hearing or speech impairments use American Sign Language (ASL), but ASL is not a universal language. ASL is a language with its own syntax and grammatical structure, which is significantly different from written and spoken English.
* When scheduling a sign language interpreter for a non-English speaking person, be certain to retain an interpreter who speaks and interprets in the language of that person.
Persons with Learning Disabilities
* Specific learning disabilities may vary from one person to another. These problems may mildly, moderately, or severely impair the learning process.
* Offer assistance by writing things down.
* Ask questions requiring short answers. Wait for the individual to respond.
* Give explanations in small steps. Pause between each step of the direction.
* Allow the person to repeat the directions to ensure understanding.