Information obtained from the Arc of Midland Web page on 12/12/07:
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that state and local courts not discriminate against people with developmental disabilities. This brochure describes the ADA and what courts can and should do to ensure that people with mental retardation receive fair and equal treatment.
Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which went into effect January 26, 1992, prohibits state and local governments from discriminating against people on the basis of a mental or physical disability. People with mental retardation are protected under the ADA. Further, activities of state and local courts are covered under title II of the ADA. Accordingly, judges, attorneys and other court personnel must understand that the ADA requires reasonable modifications in policies, practices or procedures when necessary to ensure that an individual with mental retardation is not subject to discrimination based on disability.
Title II of the ADA requires that:
"no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subject to discrimination by any such entity."
This prohibition requires Courts to ensure that individuals with disabilities are not discriminated against in the services, programs, or activities of a Court system. In addition to this general rule, the title II regulations require Courts to take affirmative measures to avoid discrimination. Specifically, Court personnel are required to make "reasonable modifications in policies, practices and procedures" when necessary to avoid discrimination based upon disability. A reasonable modification may include any modification necessary to enable effective participation in Court proceedings. However, the ADA does not require modifications, which would fundamentally alter the nature of the activity or proceeding.
Mental retardation manifests before age 18 and involves significantly below average intellectual functioning combined with limitations in two or more of the following skill areas: caring for oneself, home-living, social skills, community use, self-direction, health and safety, leisure and work, use of basic reading, writing and arithmetic.
Important Note: Most people with mental retardation do not like being called "retarded" or even having the word "retardation" used in reference to their disability. When speaking to the individual, use the phrase, "person with a disability.
Many people with mental retardation have difficulty in their ability to learn, process information and independently care for themselves. However, most individuals with mental retardation can live independently in the community. Whether the individual has a mild or severe disability, all people with mental retardation are covered under the ADA, and often need assistance.
Mental retardation refers to below average abilities to learn and process information. Mental illness refers to a person's thought processes, moods, and emotions.
Mental retardation generally occurs before a person reaches adulthood. Mental illness can occur at any time in a person's life.
Mental retardation refers to below average intellectual functioning or IQ. Mental illness has nothing to do with intelligence.
Mental retardation is usually life-long and is not subject to cure. Mental illness may be temporary, cyclical or episodic and may be curable.
Services required by people with mental retardation usually involve training, education and other support services provided by educators, psychologists, vocational specialists, etc. Services required by people with mental illness include treatment and medical or psychological therapy provided by psychologists, psychiatrists, etc.
Minimize the difficulties encountered by many individuals with mental retardation in courtroom proceedings by using these suggested practical and inexpensive ways to comply with the ADA.
For more strategies for compliance throughout the judicial process, including arraignment, pre-trial and trial, and sentencing, please visit www.thearc.org and download the full brochure, " When People with Mental Retardation go to Court. "