Original Research

Accommodating persons with communication disabilities in court: Perspectives of law students

Juan Bornman, Dianah Msipa
African Journal of Disability | Vol 13 | a1385 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v13i0.1385 | © 2024 Juan Bornman, Dianah Msipa | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 27 November 2023 | Published: 08 July 2024

About the author(s)

Juan Bornman, Division of Speech, Language and Hearing Therapy, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Health, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Dianah Msipa, Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


Background: Individuals with communication disabilities encounter obstacles in attaining equal access to justice compared to others. Despite experiencing widespread violence and abuse, they come across as challenges in seeking remedies through the legal system. One barrier is the lack of awareness among legal practitioners regarding suitable accommodations that would facilitate effective participation in court for individuals with communication disabilities.

Objectives: This study explores the awareness of final-year law students concerning court accommodations available for individuals with communication disabilities, allowing them to testify in a South African court. The findings can serve as inspiration for expanding the current curriculum for law students.

Method: This qualitative study used a modified six-step nominal group technique whereby participants (six law students identified through snowball sampling) generated, discussed and reached a consensus on accommodations needed by individuals with communication disabilities, enabling them to provide testimony in court. Data were analysed using thematic analysis principles.

Results: The study found that although participants had not received any instruction on disability rights, access to justice or court accommodations during their legal training at the undergraduate level, they were able to perceive and learn about four main types of court accommodations for persons with communication disabilities to enable their testimony.

Conclusion: Final-year law students are aware of court accommodations despite not having received formal instruction in disability law.

Contribution: The inclusion of disability rights and court accommodations is recommended at the undergraduate level to ensure that when in practice, lawyers have knowledge on ensuring access to justice for persons with communication disabilities.


access; accommodations; communication; court; disability; education; justice

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions


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