Equal court access given to all

The Judiciary has put in place various measures to ensure the judicial process is fair to people with disabilities to ensure due administration of justice.   The Judiciary made the statement today in response to media enquiries on the accessibility aids and services it provides for disabled people, including those who are deaf and hard of hearing (DHoH), in court proceedings.   In light of the varying needs and different communication methods or support requirements amongst people with disabilities, the Judiciary provides multiple accommodation aids and services for litigants, witnesses and legal practitioners in court proceedings provided that they will not compromise the due administration of justice.   For DHoH people, the assistance includes the provision of infra-red headphones and audio-guide-like receivers in court hearings.   Noting that specific arrangements made in a court proceeding or hearing is a matter of court and case management for the presiding judges and judicial officers, the Judiciary said individual presiding judges and judicial officers may give directions on a case-by-case basis on the support and assistance to be provided to facilitate the participation of court users with disabilities in court proceedings.   Court users may request aids or assistance by completing application form for submission to the relevant registry as soon as they know the date and court venue, preferably in no less than two weeks before the date of court attendance.   Click here for the guide and the application form for court assistance for people with different forms of disabilities in court proceedings/hearings.   Additionally, a sign language interpretation service is provided to a witness or a party who has such a need in any court proceedings or part of any proceedings. The Judiciary Administration maintains a pool of sign language interpreters engaged to provide interpretation services on a freelance basis.   These freelance interpreters are not Judiciary employees. There are currently 15 sign language interpreters in the pool upon the intake of additional sign language interpreters in late 2021.   Over the past five years, the average number of proceedings requiring sign language interpretation services was around 100 per annum. The Judiciary will monitor the situation and as necessary take in new interpreters from time to time to ensure the sustainability of the sign language interpretation services.   The Judiciary requires sign language interpreters to be engaged to meet certain requirements, including passing sign language proficiency tests and interviews, and possessing considerable experience in providing court interpretation services.   The Judicial Institute organises training activities on equal opportunities and rights of people with disabilities for judges and judicial officers from time to time. Reference materials on accommodation measures and support services in court proceedings or hearings for court users with disabilities are available to them.   The Judiciary said it is planning to enhance training for its support staff on the handling of court cases involving DHoH people. Talks or seminars on subjects relating to equal opportunities including communication with them will be arranged where appropriate.   It will continually review the accessibility aids and services provided for people with disabilities in light of their needs and concerns. Reference will be made to the relevant guidelines and recommendations made by the Equal Opportunities Commission in this regard.
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