Justice News

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Justice Department Enters Agreement with Alameda County, California, Sheriff to Guarantee Effective Communication for Persons Who Are Deaf, Hard of Hearing or Deaf-Blind

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced today that it has reached a settlement agreement with the Alameda County, Calif., Sheriff’s Office, under which it will provide sign language interpreters and other auxiliary aids and services to arrestees, detainees, suspects, victims, witnesses, complainants and visitors who are deaf, hard of hearing or deaf-blind at two jails. The agreement covers Santa Rita Jail and Glynn E. Dyer Jail in Dublin, Calif., and Oakland, Calif., respectively.

"Effective communication in law enforcement is critical to ensure all parties have equal access to the information regarding their rights," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. "This agreement requires Alameda County’s law enforcement officers to take the steps necessary to effectively communicate with individuals who are deaf-blind in their community."

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires "public entities," such as the sheriff’s office, to ensure effective communication with qualified individuals with disabilities. Under this agreement, a person who is deaf or hard of hearing will be able to benefit from the same services as every other arrestee, detainee, suspect, victim, witness, complainant and visitor. In tactile interpreting (also known as deaf-blind interpreting) persons who are deaf-blind place their hands over the hands of the interpreter, in order to read signs through touch and movement.

The agreement requires the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office to:

  • Establish nondiscriminatory policies for providing effective communication for people with communication disabilities, including the provision of sign language interpreters;
  • Post a notice of the policy in its waiting rooms;
  • Train staff on the policies; and
  • Ensure that appropriate auxiliary aids and services, including qualified interpreters, and specifically tactile interpreters, are made available to all individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind.

The Justice Department's investigation of the sheriff’s office was in response to a complaint filed by a man who is deaf and blind, after the office failed to provide him with a tactile interpreter when the man was arrested and during his two-day incarceration. In his complaint, he alleged that a tactile interpreter was never provided to him during his incarceration when it was necessary to achieve effective communication with him.

More information about the ADA or this agreement is available at the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 1-800-514-0301 or 1-800-514-0383 (TTY) and at www.ada.gov.

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