I sent in my request for an absentee ballot at the beginning of the week. In Pennsylvania, this is standard practice. I have to renew my request annually.
This makes sense for someone with 2 broken legs, but I don’t see it for us VIP (visually impaired) folks. After all, it is not like my AMD (age-related macular degeneration) is going to heal... Not yet. We are working on it!
Call of duty
Anyway, guess what I got at the end of this week? A subpoena to appear for jury duty! The first one I have ever gotten since I registered to vote at age 21. Not saying how long that has been.
The subpoena and the accompanying paperwork put me in a dilemma. Should I ask to be excused? I should do my civic duty and serve. It might be an interesting case.
But on the other hand, I really could not leave work for a lengthy trial, not to mention my vision. Would they want me and all my paraphernalia?
I could just see myself showing up with my CCTV magnifier in tow. Here I am; accommodate me.
The Americans with Disabilities Act
Of course, you know they would have to. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not allow them to discriminate based on a disability. If they can make accommodations to allow people with disabilities to be included, they must do so. It is simply the law.1
A challenge to our rights
The right of a blind person to serve on a jury was challenged a few years ago. According to the Braille Monitor article The Right of Blind People to Serve Comes to the Courts (October 2019), a plaintiff in Massachusetts filed an appeal because the jury included a blind person. The plaintiff contended he had not gotten a good settlement because this jury member could not see his injuries.1
Oops. Them’s fighting words for the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). The NFB filed an amicus curia brief designed to – as friends of the court interested in educating and serving justice – tell everyone exactly why the visually impaired should function as full citizens and serve on juries.1
Our unique perspective
The NFB brief outlined all sorts of good and valid points. The blind and visually impaired should not be relegated to second class citizenry by depriving them (us!) of participation in our civic institutions.
The blind and visually impaired bring unique perspectives that may inform and enhance deliberation. We really are capable of making sound judgments. And, once again, folks, it is the law. The Americans with Disabilities Act says we get to play along with everyone else.
ADA does call for reasonable accommodations, though. The Braille Monitor suggested that judges make sure those involved in the hearing don’t rely on gestures and other non-verbal communication.
Exhibits should be thoroughly described. Human or electronic readers should be available. If somebody - like me! - comes into the courthouse hauling a CCTV magnifier, she should be let in and allowed to use it.
So, how did I fill out the section that asked if I wanted to be excused? Basically, I copped out. I told them they should make the decision and, if they did not want me, I promised not to scream ADA.
I would be interested to do it and to not be excluded, but, likewise, I don’t want to gum up the works. If accommodating me means extra hours on a case, you can count me out.
What is your take on all of this?
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