What is the ADA?
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991.
There are also Massachusetts laws protecting people with disabilities. Such laws include: Article 114 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution; The Massachusetts Equal Rights Act (MERA) G. L. c. 93, § 103(a). These laws work together to make sure individuals with disabilities are treated equally to those without.
Who has the right to ask for an accommodation?
Any court user with a disability may ask for an accommodation. A court user can be a party to a case, an attorney, a juror, probationer, or any other member of the public who has reason to come to a court location.
What disabilities qualify for accommodation?
A disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity. Major life activities include caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.
Examples of ADA disabilities include (these are just examples and not an exclusive list):
- Bipolar Disorder:
- Cerebral Palsy;
- HIV infection;
- Mobility impairments;
- Multiple Sclerosis;
- Muscular Dystrophy;
- Major Depressive Disorder;
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder;
What disabilities do not qualify for accommodation?
Temporary afflictions such as the flu, or cold does not qualify for accommodation. The Massachusetts Court System is committed to providing the opportunity to participate equally in services, programs, and activities. The courts will strive to accommodate court users within reason.
Call the court if you are feeling ill. Your court date could be moved or you might be able to appear by video or phone even if your sickness does not fall under the ADA.
When will the Massachusetts Court System provide an accommodation?
The Massachusetts Court System will provide an accommodation so long as it is "reasonable" and does not cause an undue financial or administrative burden. The courts are not required to provide accommodations that:
- fundamentally alter the nature of a court service, program, or activity,
- impair the neutrality of the court,
- create an uneven playing field, or
- pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others.
What are examples of accommodations that will not be provided?
Requests for accommodation are considered on a case-by-case basis, but some examples of accommodations that usually will not be provided include:
- providing legal advice or legal research or writing;
- granting prolonged or indefinite extensions of time; and
- providing transportation to and from a court location.
What kind of accommodations can I ask for?
Accommodations come in many forms. However, the accommodation must be “reasonable” under the circumstances.
Some examples are:
- Reassign a hearing to an accessible site; or
- Reassign hearing from a morning session to an afternoon session to accommodate medical need;
Provide assistive devices
- Assistive listening devices; or
- Computer-assisted real-time transcription (CART).
How do I ask for an accommodation ahead of my service as a juror?
Contact the Office of the Jury Commissioner. More information can be found on the page Learn about jury duty accessibility.
Will parking be provided as an accommodation?
If a court location provides public parking, a number of parking spaces will be available for court users with disability plates or placards on a first-come-first-serve basis. Otherwise, parking is not provided as an accommodation.
How do I ask for accommodation?
Fill out the Request for Reasonable Accommodation form and submit it to the local court’s ADA Coordinator.
You can also call and speak to an ADA Coordinator.
In some cases, you may be asked by a Clerk-Magistrate, ADA Coordinator, or other court staff to submit a motion so a judge can rule on your request.
When must I file a motion to ask for an accommodation?
Only a judge can consider certain requests for accommodation, including requests that involve a balancing of the rights of the parties, alterations to the applicable rules of procedure, and changes to the functioning of a court proceeding. Such a request must be made by motion.
Examples of requests for accommodation that must be made by motion include:
- extensions of time or adjournments;
- changes in the time of day a proceeding will be conducted;
- participating in a proceeding by phone or videoconference;
- presenting information in an alternative format.
A form motion for reasonable accommodation can be found online.
What if I don’t know whether the form or the motion is necessary?
If you have questions, ask the ADA Coordinator.
How do I find the ADA Coordinator?
Each court location has an ADA Coordinator. Their name and contact information are posted on the website for each individual court and are also posted in the courthouse.
What is the role of an ADA Coordinator?
ADA Coordinator's help facilitate request for accommodation by communicating with you and coordinating your request with the appropriate court personnel. They are not responsible for deciding whether your request should be granted or denied.
ADA Coordinators also do not provide legal advice or act as scribes, advocates, or compliance officers.
Where can I find the Request for Reasonable Accommodation form?
What information is required to ask for an accommodation?
Your request should include: your name, address, phone number, email address; the date by which you will need the accommodation, such as the date of the proceeding or applicable court deadline; the court location; the name of the case (and case number, if known); your involvement in the case, such as party, witness, or attorney; the nature of your disability; a brief description of the accommodation you are seeking; and any other important information that would aid in the consideration of your request.
Do I have to tell the court the nature of my disability when I request an accommodation?
Yes, the request should state the disability that makes an accommodation necessary. If possible, include what reasonable accommodation you would like. No medical documentation is required at this time.
Should I include medical documentation or a doctor’s note with my ADA form or motion?
No. Do not include any medical documentation or a doctor’s note with anything submitted to or filed with the court. If a judge, clerk-magistrate, or ADA Coordinator needs medical documentation he, she or they will request it.
Is my request for an accommodation kept confidential?
The ADA Accommodation Request Form is kept confidential. Even other parties are not allowed access to it. It is only shared with other court personnel if necessary for the accommodation.
If your request is made by motion, however, it is part of the court record and presumptively available to the public. You can ask that the motion be kept confidential.
How do I keep my need for accommodation confidential if it is filed as a motion?
You may file a motion for impoundment. Even if a judge grants the motion, however, please note that other parties to the case will still be able to access the motion for accommodation.
Should I request an accommodation before I come to court?
Yes. While a request for an accommodation can be made at any time, it is best to make the request as far in advance as you can. If possible, you should give a minimum of ten (10) business days’ notice.
What happens after I submit my request for accommodation?
Some requests, such as assistive listening devices, can be accommodated quickly, sometimes on the same day. Others, such as arranging for an interpreter, or any request that must be made by motion to a judge, will take more time to respond to. In any event, the court will respond to your request in a reasonable amount of time.
Will I receive the accommodation I ask for? Do I have to accept alternative accommodations?
The court is allowed to offer effective alternatives to the accommodation requested. If you are not able to use the alternative offered, let the court know and the ADA Coordinator will talk to you about the accommodations. For example, if assistive listening devices do not help because of severe hearing loss, computer-aided transcription may be available.
What if I disagree with an accommodation decision?
If your request was denied by a judge, you must file a motion for reconsideration by the judge or file an appeal with the Appeals Court. You can contact the Court Service Center for help.
If your request was denied by someone other than a judge, you must follow our grievance procedure.
Is there a separate cost for an accommodation?
No. The Massachusetts Court System provides reasonable accommodations at no cost to all qualified individuals. However, the ADA does not require the Trial Court to waive normal fees or other costs required for all court users as an accommodation.
For instance, a filing fee to initiate a case will typically not be waived as an accommodation. If you can’t afford this fee you can file an Affidavit of Indigency.
Does the court have to pay for or offer medical equipment or personal services I may need at court?
No. The court does not have to provide or pay for personal needs. Services the Massachusetts Court System does not provide include:
- A personal care assistant;
- Personal hearing aids, prescription eyeglasses, wheelchairs, or walkers;
- A free lawyer, paralegal, or assistant although you may contact our Court Service Center or Trial Court library to find what resources are available.
Can I bring an animal or pet into a court facility for emotional support?
Pets and emotional support, comfort and/or therapy animals are not permitted. A service animal (a dog, and in some cases, a miniature horse) that has been trained to perform tasks for a person with a disability is permitted.