The Elder Justice Resource Guide includes information about elder abuse, accessible courtrooms for older adults, capacity and confusion, effective communication, and available resources for older adults experiencing abuse. The Guide also includes a comprehensive directory of national, state, and local services available to older adults.
An accessible courtroom is essential to ensuring that all older adults are fully able to participate in court proceedings.
Ms. A, an older adult with limited mobility had experienced physical and emotional abuse from her son and was seeking an Order of Protection. When testifying, due to issues with her dentures, Ms. A was constantly moving her mouth. The judge misinterpreted her movement as chewing and asked Ms. A to spit out her gum. Not understanding the direction, Ms. A took out her dentures and held them in a napkin.
These subtle misunderstandings have a dramatic impact on the experience of the older adult and potentially the outcome of the hearing.
The following list provides examples of initial steps that could be taken to increase courtroom accessibility for older adults.
Considerations for the Physical Space
- Forms and instructions in larger and easy to read font*
- Accessible water
- Minimal background noise
- Non-glare, non-buzzing lighting
- Microphones, pocket talkers, magnifying glasses, and other assistive devices
- Sturdy chairs with arms and without wheels
- Tables with rounded corners and at a comfortable height to avoid excessive reaching
- Trauma-informed sensory tools (see also: The GO Bag: Trauma Informed Tools for the Court)
- Access to resources from local offices for the aging, NY Connects, and Adult Protective Services
- Accessible routes throughout the courthouse
- Accessible parking and entrances