General FAQ's - Frequently Asked Questions


Q. What is the Americans with Disabilities Act?

A. The Americans with Disabilities Act (the ADA) is a federal law that protects the civil rights of people who have a disability. Title II of the ADA protects people with disabilities against being excluded from participating in -- or being denied the benefit of -- any of the services, programs, or activities that State and local governments provide.  Title II also prohibits State and local governments from discriminating against people with disabilities because of their disability.

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Q. Who is a person with a disability?

A. As defined by the ADA, a person with a disability is someone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.  A person with a “physical or mental impairment” might be someone who has an orthopedic, visual, speech, or hearing impairment, or be someone who has a disease or condition that is not immediately apparent, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, an emotional or mental illness, or an intellectual or learning disability.  Many other kinds of physical or mental disorders or conditions may also qualify as a disability under the ADA if they substantially affect a major bodily function or an activity important to daily life, such as, for example breathing, walking, talking, seeing, hearing, or performing manual tasks.

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Q. What is an accommodation?

A.  In the broadest sense, the ADA requires that the court system be accessible to people with disabilities and give them an equal opportunity to participate.  Where necessary, the court system must make reasonable modifications to the usual way it does things, as long as doing so doesn’t fundamentally alter the nature of the court’s services, programs, or activities. The court system also must take the steps necessary to effectively communicate with a person with a communication disability.   An accommodation is anything the court system can do or provide to make sure that a person with a disability has an equal opportunity to participate in a court proceeding or make use of the court’s services, programs, and activities.


Q. If I need an accommodation, who do I ask?

AFor trial courts in New York City, ask the Chief Clerk of the court. To find the Chief Clerk’s contact information, please visit our Local ADA Information by Courthouse page, and select the county where the court is located. Link Local ADA Information by Courthouse to: Local ADA Information by Courthouse | NYCOURTS.GOV

For trial courts outside New York City, ask the District Executive of the Judicial District in which the court is located. To find the District Executive’s contact information, please visit our Local ADA Information by Courthouse page, and select the county where the court is located. Link Local ADA Information by Courthouse to: Local ADA Information by Courthouse | NYCOURTS.GOV

Many accommodations can be provided by the Chief Clerk or District Executive or someone they designate -- but some types of accommodation requests must be decided by the judge or judicial officer presiding over your case.  (For more information on these two kinds of accommodation requests, please see “Q. Who will decide if I can get an accommodation?” below).  If you make a request that only a judge can decide, the Chief Clerk or District Executive will refer it to the judge presiding over your case.  If you already know for sure that the kind of accommodation you want is something only the judge can provide, you can contact the judge’s chambers to ask for it in advance, or ask the judge when you come to court.

 


Q. Can I ask for an accommodation before I come to court?

A. Yes, please do.  Whenever possible, ask for an accommodation at least a few days before you come to court.  Advance requests can be made by e-mail, letter, or telephone.  Want to know who you should ask and how you can get in touch with them?  Please see “Q. If I need an accommodation, who do I ask?above.


Q.  If I want to ask for an accommodation before I come to court, what should I say?

A. Make your request as specific as possible. Please include:
• your name
• a brief description of your disability
• the accommodation(s) you want
• name of the case (and number, if known)
• name of the judge (if known)
• date(s) you will be in court
• your contact information, including mailing address, e-mail address, and phone number.

If you make your request by e-mail, please put “ADA Accommodation Request” in the subject line. If you make your request by letter, please write “ADA Accommodation Request” at the top.  If you make your request by phone, please be prepared to provide the information above when you call.


Q. Can I ask for an accommodation when I get to court?

A. Yes.  Although it’s much better if you ask in advance so that we have more of a chance to prepare, you can also make your request in person.  Please ask court security personnel to
direct you to the court’s Chief Clerk’s office.  Remember, if you wait until you get to court to
request an accommodation, we may not be able to provide it that same day.

If you are sure that your accommodation request is the kind that needs to be decided by the judge, (as described in “Q. Who will decide if I can get an accommodation?below), you can make your request directly to the judge in your case.  If you haven’t contacted the judge’s chambers in advance, you can ask the judge when you get to court.


Q. Who will decide if I can get an accommodation?

A.  Who decides your request depends on what you are asking for.

Requests that do not have to be decided by a judge or judicial officer will be decided by the Chief Clerk or District Executive, sometimes in consultation with the Statewide ADA Coordinator.  This includes most requests for what the ADA calls “auxiliary aids and services,” such as sign language interpreters, assistive listening devices, or CART (also known as “real-time”) reporting for a person who is Deaf or hard of hearing, or copies of documents in large print, Braille, screen readable, or audio formats for a person who is blind or has low vision.

The Chief Clerk or District Executive will also decide requests to modify an administrative practice or procedure, such as relocating a proceeding to a physically accessible courtroom or allowing papers to be filed in a physically accessible location for a person with a mobility impairment, or to provide assistance in filling out a form to a person with a manual impairment.
 
A Chief Clerk or District Executive, however, cannot grant any request that involves a judicial balancing of the rights of the parties or the Judge’s or judicial officer’s inherent power to manage the courtroom and the proceeding.  Examples of such requests may include, but are not limited to, requests for:  extensions of time or adjournments; changes in the time of day a case will be heard;  permission to participate by phone or video; the presence or absence of other persons in the courtroom; and, modifications in the way testimony is to be given.  Those types of accommodation requests must be decided by the judge or judicial officer presiding over the case. 

If all or some part of the request that you make to a Chief Clerk or District Executive involves an accommodation that only a judge or judicial officer has the authority to provide, the Chief Clerk or District Executive will refer the request (or that part of it) to the judge or judicial officer presiding over your case. 


Q.  What happens after I make my request?

A.  UCS policy is to provide reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities, to the fullest extent possible. If the court will provide the requested accommodation, you will be notified by court personnel, or by the judge or judicial officer hearing your case.  

Sometimes, we may need to ask you to provide additional information about your disability, to help us better understand how your limitations interfere with your ability to participate in court proceedings, or how we might be able to accommodate them.  In some cases, the court may propose an alternative accommodation for you to consider.

If after discussion the Chief Clerk or District Executive denies your requested accommodation -- and we haven’t agreed on an alternative accommodation -- you will get a written Denial of Accommodation Form.  The Form will explain why your request was denied.  That Denial is an administrative determination and it can be administratively reviewed if you ask.  For more information, please see “Q. What can I do if my accommodation is denied?below.

If a judge or judicial officer denies your accommodation request – and no alternative accommodation can be agreed on -- you may ask the judge or judicial officer to provide you with a written judicial order or to state the reason for the denial on the record. That denial is a judicial determination that can be judicially reviewed.  Court administrators cannot review a judge’s or judicial officer’s decision.

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Q.  Will anyone else know about my request or what I say about my disability?

A.  Information you provide will be kept confidential to the extent possible.  If you are asking for an accommodation that that can only be granted or denied by a judge (please see “Q. Who will decide if I can get an accommodation?” above), the judge may require that your request be brought to the attention of the other parties to the proceeding.

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Q.  What can I do if my accommodation request is denied?

A. You can seek review of that decision. How you seek review depends on who denied your request. 

If a judge or judicial officer denied your request, you can seek review through the regular process of judicial review. If you need legal advice on how to have a judge’s decision reviewed, please visit our CourtHelp & Find a Lawyer pages.

If a Chief Clerk or District Executive denied your request, you can ask to have that denial administratively reconsidered.  For more information, please visit How A Denied Request Can Be Reviewed.

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Q. How do I make a general complaint about court accessibility?

A. At times, a person may not need an accommodation but might still want to complain or express concern about the accessibility of the courthouse or court proceedings or services. This may bring to light a problem that might otherwise go unnoticed, but which needs to be addressed, and we welcome the chance to address it.

If you have such a complaint, please make it in writing.  Depending on the location of the court, send your complaint to either the District Executive (for courts outside NYC) or the Chief Clerk of the Court (for courts inside NYC), with a copy to the Statewide ADA Coordinator at ADA@nycourts.gov.  Please include your contact information (name, address, email, and phone number) so that a response can be provided.

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Q. How do I make a complaint if I think that I have been discriminated against because of my disability?

A. If you believe that you been subjected to disability discrimination by a court employee, contact the Office of the Managing Inspector General for Bias Matters at (877)-2EndBias, (646) 386-3507, or email: ig@nycourts.gov.


Q. Can the court system accommodate me if I am a juror?

A. Yes. Reasonable accommodations are available. The jury summons you received asks whether you'll need an accommodation for a disability. If you want an accommodation, follow the instructions on the juror summons as soon as possible after receiving the summons.
 

Note that sometimes the trial judge may need to determine whether, even with an accommodation, a person's disability won't allow them to fulfill their role as a juror. For example, if a jury will need to consider crucial visual evidence, and a prospective juror is blind, the judge may need to decide whether the parties are legally entitled to have every juror view such evidence firsthand. If the judge determined that having a blind juror in the case would be incompatible with the legal rights of the parties, no reasonable accommodation could be made to allow the person to serve on that case.

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Q.  Can the court system help me fill out a form as an accommodation?

A. Yes. In appropriate situations, court staff may assist you by completing court forms if your disability limits your ability to do this on your own. In providing the assistance, court personnel act solely as scribes, recording on the court forms the information you provide. Please remember that court personnel cannot give legal advice.

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Q. Can the court system provide an accommodation for a family member or a spectator?

A.  Yes. The court will provide reasonable accommodations for family members and spectators. Accommodation requests by family members and spectators should be made as many days in advance of the proceeding as possible.  Please see “Q. If I need an accommodation, who do I ask?above for more information.

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Q. Can the court store my medication as an accommodation?

A. Yes. Courts can accommodate you by temporarily keeping any medication that you need while in court in an appropriate area.  Requests for this accommodation should be made to the court’s Chief Clerk.

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Q. Are service animals allowed in the courthouse?

A. Yes, service animals are allowed in all areas where members of the public are allowed. Service animals are dogs that have been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. They are working animals, not pets. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

A person who wants to bring a service animal into the courthouse does not have to verbally or in writing confirm that they have a disability, but they may be asked certain questions about their service animal. If it is not immediately obvious what service an animal provides, a person may be asked whether (1) their dog is a service animal required because of a disability and, (2) what work or tasks the dog has been trained to perform. 

Service animals must be kept on a leash, harness, or tether (unless using one is not possible due to the handler's disability or always interferes with the service animal’s performance) and be within the control of the person with a disability. For the security and safety of all court users, if at any time the animal becomes unruly or aggressive, the court may ask that the animal be removed from the facility. If the dog is removed, however, the person with the disability must be allowed to return to the court unaccompanied by the dog.

In some circumstances, a miniature horse that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability may also be permitted in the courthouse as a reasonable accommodation. 

Please note: “comfort” or “emotional support” animals that do not qualify as service animals will not be permitted, unless otherwise authorized by a court’s Administrative Judge.

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Q. Can the court system provide transportation to or from court, or have someone meet me at the curb?

A. No. The court's responsibility to court users begins at the door of the courthouse. If a municipal transport service for disabled individuals exists in a locale, however, the court may be able to provide the telephone number as a courtesy.

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Q. Can the court system provide me with a wheelchair? 

A. No. The court system does not provide personal medical equipment such as wheelchairs or canes, or personally prescribed items such as eyeglasses or hearing aids. The court system also does not provide services of a purely personal nature, such as a personal attendant to assist with eating, toileting, or dressing.

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Q. Does the court system provide parking for people with disabilities?

A. Not all our courthouses have public parking facilities and those that do are usually not operated by the court system. If you are visiting a facility that provides parking for the public, there should be some spaces reserved for people with disabilities. 

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Q. Can teleconferencing or videoconferencing be considered as an accommodation for a hearing or other court proceeding?

A. Yes, but that kind of accommodation would be up to the judge presiding over the case. On a case-by-case basis, and with approval of the judge, telephone or video conferencing may be a way of accommodating a person whose disability impairs their ability to leave home to come to court or to physically access the court building.  If you want to ask for this accommodation, contact the chambers of the judge presiding over the case.  Be sure to explain that you want to appear by phone or video because your disability makes it hard to come to court.

 


Q. What is an Assistive Listening Device?

A. An Assistive Listening Device s (ALD) is a sensitive amplification instruments that brings sound directly to the ear.  It may be helpful for the hard of hearing in specific, but not all, listening situations. An ALD will help to overcome background noise and poor courtroom acoustics. An ALD can be used by people who wear hearing aids, or have a cochlear implant, and by people who don’t wear hearing aids but have some hearing loss or difficulty hearing in a courtroom.  An ALD will not assist a person who is Deaf.  For information on how to get an ALD, please see “If I need an accommodation, who do I ask?” above.

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Q. What is CART and how can it assist a person with a hearing impairment?

A. Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART)  – also known as real-time reporting – can be used as an accommodation for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing but who do not use sign language and would not be helped by an assistive listening device.  

To provide CART, a court reporter uses a stenotype machine, computer, and special software to convert what is being said by the participants into unedited text that is displayed on a screen for the person with a hearing impairment.  A CART reporter is used in addition to the official court reporter.  The CART reporter’s role is to enable participation by the Deaf or hard of hearing person by letting that person know, through a visible textual display, what other participants in the proceeding are saying. The official court reporter’s role is to create a complete official court record of what all participants say – that record is the only one that may be transcribed upon request.  CART reporting may not be an effective accommodation for slow or non-readers or non-English speakers.  For information on how to get CART reporting please see “Q. If I need an accommodation, who do I ask?” above.


Q.   Do you have sign language interpreters?

A.  Yes. The court system provides interpretation services for the Deaf and hard of hearing.  We have staff and per diem American Sign Language interpreters.  We can also arrange to provide a Signing (Signed) Exact English interpreter, a Certified Deaf Interpreter/Deaf Intermediary Interpreter, or an oral transliterator (lip reader). For information on how to get a sign language interpreter please see “Q. If I need an accommodation, who do I ask?” above.

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