Jul 24, 2015
BY SCOTT MALONE
Massachusetts is testing a program that would enable profoundly deaf people to serve on juries in state courts with the help of sign-language interpreters, in an effort described by advocates for the deaf as the most extensive in the United States.
The program, which has so far been tested in eight of the state’s 14 counties, aims to provide deaf Massachusetts residents summoned to jury duty with American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters from the moment they arrive at a courthouse, through jury selection and trial, officials said on Friday.
The program is expected to go into full operation statewide next year, said Heidi Reed, who heads the state’s Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
“We wanted to ensure that affected jurors who used ASL would have the opportunity to go through the selection process and potentially serve on a jury,” Reed said.
Previously, deaf people who were summoned for jury duty in the state had to specially request assistance or defer service. The state estimates that 1 percent of the population is deaf, with about 400 deaf people called for jury duty in a typical year.