Original Research

Transformative equality: Court accommodations for South African citizens with severe communication disabilities

Robyn M. White, Juan Bornman, Ensa Johnson, Karen Tewson, Joan van Niekerk
African Journal of Disability | Vol 9 | a651 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v9i0.651 | © 2020 Robyn M. White, Juan Bornman, Ensa Johnson, Karen Tewson, Joan van Niekerk | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 June 2019 | Published: 01 April 2020

About the author(s)

Robyn M. White, Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Juan Bornman, Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Ensa Johnson, Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Karen Tewson, National Prosecuting Authority, Pretoria, South Africa
Joan van Niekerk, Private, Durban, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Persons with disabilities are generally at greater risk of experiencing violence than their peers without a disability. Within the sphere of disability, individuals with severe communication disabilities are particularly vulnerable and have an increased risk of being a victim of abuse or violence and typically turn to their country’s criminal justice system to seek justice. Unfortunately, victims with disabilities are often denied fair and equal treatment before the court. Transformative equality should be pursued when identifying accommodations in court for persons with communication disabilities, as the aim should be to enable such individuals to participate equally in court, without barriers and discrimination.

Objectives: This research aimed to identify court accommodations recommended by legal experts, which could assist individuals with severe communication disabilities in the South African court.

Method: A qualitative design was used to conduct a discussion with a panel of legal experts.

Results: Using Article 13 (Access to Justice) of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) as a human rights framework, four themes were identified: equality, accommodations, participation and training of professionals.

Conclusion: Foreign and national law clearly prohibits discrimination against persons with communication disabilities because of their disability and state that they should be given fair and equal access to the court system. For transformative equality to be achieved, certain rules and laws need to be changed to include specific accommodations for persons with communication disabilities so that they may be enabled to participate effectively in court in the criminal justice system.


Keywords

communication disability; access to justice; human rights; South Africa; court accommodations

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