Michael Schwartz to Serve on NYS Committee to Promote Court Access for People with Disabilities
On Sept. 26,New York State Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks announced the formation of an advisory panel charged with developing an action plan to improve access to state courts for all persons, including those with visual, hearing, communication, mobility, cognitive and other disabilities.
Serving on the Advisory Committee on Access for People with Disabilities will be Professor Michael Schwartz, supervising attorney and director of the Disability Rights Clinic in the College of Law’s Office of Clinical Legal Education.
“It’s a great honor to be included in such an important group that will advise the courts of the State of New York on improvements to its accessibility for people with disabilities,” says Schwartz. “I look forward to this exciting work. I hope my experiences as a deaf lawyer for more than 35 years will provide some guidance to my colleagues on the committee.”
Schwartz joins state Unified Court System judges, clerks and administrators, as well as representatives from legal services providers, law firms and advocacy groups from around New York State. The committee will be led by Rosalyn H. Richter, associate justice of the Appellate Division, First Department, of the New York State Supreme Court.
The advisory panel will examine a broad scope of issues, including the procedures for requesting accommodations; the availability of sign language interpreters and the quality of remote video interpreting services for the deaf and hard of hearing; the navigability for those with visual and other disabilities of online court programs and services; barriers faced by jurors who have a disability; and training and other needs to ensure best practices in providing access for court users with special needs.
The committee will submit its recommendations to the chief judge on these issues, among other topics of concern.
Court users are protected from disability discrimination by the American Disabilities Act (ADA) and other statutes. Each courthouse has a liaison to assist in providing reasonable accommodations to litigants, attorneys and other court users with special needs. The court system employs a statewide coordinator to oversee the facilitation of such requests and offering training, technical and other resources to the liaisons, as well as to judges and other court staff.
Advisory committee member Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Edwina G. Mendelson—who heads the courts’ newly expanded Office for Justice Initiatives (OJI), which works to ensure meaningful access to justice for all those who pass through New York’s state courthouses—will work closely with committee members to seek ways the OJI can enhance accessibility for court users with special needs.