PEORIA - Participating in a courtroom can sometimes be intimidating for people with disabilities, but the Peoria County judicial system is making access easier.
Jeannine McAllister and Amanda Dudgeon work for Advocates for Access in Peoria Heights. The organization helps people with disabilities find resources for everyday living. Dudgeon is hearing impaired.
"For the deaf community, they want to feel included like everybody else," she said.
"I think everyone should have a chance to participate in anything they would like to participate in," said McAllister.
They both think that of a courtroom - a place that can be intimidating, especially for someone who is hearing impaired.
"I've had many instances where jurors would rather be excused than avail themselves or try to hear things that they couldn't hear," said Chief Judge Michael Brandt of the Tenth Judicial Circuit.
Recently, Brandt helped develop a new written policy for disabled access. He's now working to spread the word on how the policy makes access to Peoria County courtrooms much easier, like through a device called "CART."
"It stands for 'Communication Access Real-time Translation.' And it allows people to participate in that court system that otherwise would not be able to hear," said court reporter, Pat Houlf.
It's operated by special staffs that are available to anyone in need. This includes jurors, witnesses and even judges. Brandt hopes it makes it easier for people to seek help.
Dudgeon sure hopes so.
"It makes me feel like good. In the heart of the community we want all to work together. And that shows us that all the hard work is paying off," she said.
The policy accommodates all disabilities.
If you have a disability and would like to learn how you can participate, contact the court's disability coordinator at (309) 672-6047 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.