Courts and Accessible Electronic Documents
Q: I am an attorney who uses a screen reader due to my disability. I have a case in the circuit court. Must the court provide me with accessible versions of electronic documents?
A: The answer to this question is based on Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Title II covers state and local government and all related instrumentalities. A state or local court system falls into this category. As such, the circuit court must make their programs, services, and activities accessible to qualified individuals with disabilities. These individuals cannot be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of the covered entity—in this case, the circuit court. Thus, if the court uses an electronic document system, then those documents must be accessible to people with disabilities, including those like yourself, who use screen readers.
As the Department of Justice stated in a settlement agreement with the Orange County Clerk of Courts in Florida,
“A public entity must also take appropriate steps to ensure that communications with qualified individuals with disabilities—including individuals seeking access to a service, program, or activity of a public entity, as well as their companions—are as effective as communications with others, and furnish appropriate auxiliary aids and services, such as accessible electronic documents, where necessary to afford qualified individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in, and enjoy the benefits of, a service, program, or activity of the public entity, consistent with the requirements of the law.”
In short, what the settlement agreement is telling us is that communication for those with disabilities, as well as their companions, must be equally effective as communication with those individuals without disabilities. To do this, a covered entity (like the circuit court), must provide auxiliary aids (like accessible electronic documents).
So, to go back to your specific question, yes, the circuit court must provide you with accessible versions of documents related to your case.