Summoned for jury duty while deaf or hard of hearing: Should you do it?

There is this rare moment in one’s life that some people get to experience and others do not. And that moment is to be summoned for jury duty.

Embarking on something for the first time is always scary and uncertain. Especially if you are wondering what it takes to handle the courtroom. You may be wondering if you can keep up with the fast pace.

Miscommunication happens when you think you heard what you’ve heard. You’re unsure if you can accurately deliberate the verdict when you regularly miss hearing things. You can’t possibly deal with the burden of wrongly giving someone a guilty verdict.

Perhaps it’s the thought of being judged (no pun intended) by court administrators. The humiliation of dealing with your hearing loss publicly and knowing that others hold the faith to decide whether you’re competent enough to participate in society’s civic duties.

So it’s no wonder many people with hearing loss would quickly wave their doctor’s notes to get out of jury duties and not have to deal with the rejection.

Here at Lisnen, we believe our community deserves to participate in all of society’s fabric. We want you to feel in control of your life and not have your hearing loss feel like a burden. This article will help you decide whether to continue your jury duties.

But here, we’ll help you decide based on the external circumstances, not that you can’t hear well.

Accommodations are available for use

Many of us have done many things throughout our lives. We’ve gone to school to obtain an education. We can interview and hold jobs. We volunteer our time to help someone else.

Yet, we think it’s all different when it comes to serving. Unless you haven’t worked a day in your life or never had access to primary education, then, yes, serving will be hard for you. But I know that this isn’t true for most of us.

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Many tech companies serve our community by creating solutions that can help us get clarity to sounds, listen better, or provide alternative means of communication. We’ve probably used these accommodations and can apply them in the courtroom.

You may not know what’s available when you’re new to hearing loss. However, accommodations can be one or a combination: an amplified listening headset, a device to stream microphone audio to our hearing devices, a closed caption or speech-to-text app, or an interpreter.

We often forget that there is a stenographer in court for a reason. People forget what was said verbatim. Having access to their written document will be incredibly helpful.

It’s our job to understand what we need. People who meet us for the first time will not be the experts we need.

You have the human right to participate.

It could be the case that after asking for accommodations, you’ll find that just having a hearing loss disqualifies you from participating in any court activities. Those who are above the law do make mistakes and break accessibility laws.

In any civic activity, one is supposed to provide reasonable accommodation. You have the right to vote and engage with your government equally as everyone else.

Accommodations will help you pick up the conversation better in the courtroom. Yet, some court administrators will pull the hardship card because they don’t want to do the extra work of finding accommodations for you.

The burden shouldn’t be put on you. You push for your fundamental rights to participate in any court hearing.

You want to stand up for your fellow hearing-loss citizens

Society subtly suppresses groups of people because they hold old and tiring biases about deaf and hard-of-hearing people.

Every time we’re excluded from participating, we create more chances for isolation. We start to lose moments of being integrated into various facets of our society. By being pushed aside, we lose an opportunity to make a difference.

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You have to be present for change to occur.

We need to be teachers. The experience that other people gather from being around us is knowledge and experience that they can carry forward when interacting with another person just like us.

By pressing for our needs, we can command the respect our community deserves. This could be your opportunity to pave the way forward for others. One day, and it will happen, someone like you will be going through the same experience.

Plus, you never know when the defendant or plaintiff is someone with hearing loss too. And while the evidence is what you need to look at, your experience adds much more weight than those with hearing.

It’s your choice

Ultimately, it is up to you to bring your doctor’s note to excuse yourself from jury duty for life or a specific time as long as you don’t perceive your hearing loss as a burden or a problem. It shouldn’t be the reason to stop you from developing a sense of belonging to your community.

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