The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Michigan and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights have reached an agreement with the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Michigan Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act (“MPWDCRA”), Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel L. Lemisch and Agustin V. Arbulu, Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, announced today. Under the terms of the agreement, the Prosecutor’s Office will provide sign language interpreters and other aids and services, free of charge, to members of the public who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The settlement resolves a complaint that the Prosecutor’s Office failed to provide a sign language interpreter to an individual who is deaf and communicates primarily in American Sign Language (ASL). The complainant alleged that the Prosecutor’s Office asked the complainant to provide information and sign a summons and complaint in a child support matter, but she was unable to communicate effectively with employees without an interpreter.
The ADA and MPWDCRA require that public entities provide effective communication to all individuals with disabilities who seek to participate in or benefit from their services, programs or activities. “Effective communication” means that communication with persons who are deaf or hard of hearing should be as effective as communication with others. Entities must provide auxiliary aids and services, including qualified and certified ASL interpreters, when necessary to give persons with disabilities equal access.
Under the settlement, the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office agreed to modify its policies and train its staff to ensure that members of the public who are deaf are able to effectively communicate with the office, provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services at no cost, and post signs notifying the public of the availability of these services.
“Government offices have an obligation under the Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure that people with disabilities are able to access their programs and services,” said Acting United States Attorney Daniel L. Lemisch. “We are pleased that the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office is updating its policies to ensure that individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing will have access to the tools they need to communicate with its employees. We hope this case will remind other government offices to ensure they have the tools in place to provide effective communication to the public that they serve.”
“Access for all to our justice system is a fundamental aspect of our democracy,” said Agustin V. Arbulu, Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. “People who are Deaf, DeafBlind or Hard of Hearing must be able to communicate effectively within our justice systems, whether as a defendant, a witness, a victim of a crime or a party to a proceeding. The Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office deserves our thanks for providing a simple, cost-effective model for other Michigan Prosecutor offices to follow in ensuring access for Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing citizens.”
“The right to effective communication is a core right for Michigan citizens who are Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing, and the ability to fully access programs and services in our courts must be protected,” said Annie Urasky, Director of MDCR Division on Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing. “I thank the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office for recognizing the need to review and update their policies with regards to sign language interpreters.”
Those interested in finding out more about this settlement or the obligations of public entities under the ADA may call the U.S. Attorney’s Office Civil Rights Hotline at 313-226-9151, or send an email to email@example.com.
Those interested in learning more about the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, the Division on Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing and the laws they enforce can visit www.michigan.gov/mdcr or call 800-482-3604; via Video Phone at 313-437-7035; or send email to MDCR-INFO@michigan.gov.
Information is also available at the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA information line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TDD), or at www.ada.gov.