Administration Of Justice: Experiences Of Deaf, Deafblind & Deaf People With Additional Disabilities In Accessing The Justice System

CAD-ASC received funding from the Department of Justice program “Assistance for Victims and Survivors of Crime with Disabilities” to gather information from Deaf, DeafBlind and Deaf people who have additional disabilities, who use sign language and have had experience with the justice system. The goal of the research was to gather information about their lived experiences with the justice system. The words “lived experiences” refer to direct first-hand accounts and impressions of the individuals.

The words “justice system” included contact with police services, lawyers, courts, correctional centres, halfway houses, victim support services, social workers and/or parole and probation officers.

The research was conducted between April 2017 and February 2018. The research report identifies gaps and needs, and to provide recommendations from the multiple perspectives of the participants. The project was completed by three researchers: Dr. Patrick Boudreault, Dr. Cathy Chovaz, and Dr. Debra Russell. In addition to the research report, the researchers have created a fact sheet, a brochure, and an American Sign Language (ASL) and langue des signes québécoise (LSQ) version of this Executive Summary.

We found that, across the country, Deaf, DeafBlind, and Deaf people with additional disabilities do not have equitable access to communication when interacting with the justice system. While there have been sectors and occasions when the system has responded well in terms of access, for example, the provision of interpreters for court matters, the majority of participants in this study reported major barriers in communicating with police, social workers, parole and probation officers, victim support workers, lawyers and correctional officers. In addition, there were consistent concerns expressed about the qualifications and specialized training that many interpreters lack despite working in legal settings.

Based on the data gathered in this research project, recommendations were made to address the gaps that have been experienced by victims, those charged with criminal offences and personnel seeking to provide services to them within the justice system.