The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal statute intended to protect the civil rights of people with disabilities and ensure they have the same opportunities as people without disabilities. More specifically, Title II of the Act states “no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subject to discrimination by any such entity.” As public entities, circuit courts are required to accommodate the needs of individuals with disabilities to ensure equal access to all court programs.

The Nineteenth Judicial Circuit, Circuit Court of Lake County, Illinois (Circuit Court) takes its responsibilities under the ADA very seriously. The Circuit Court’s Strategic Plan highlights previous accomplishments in the area of increasing accessibility and pledges to continue to advance this issue in the future. The Circuit Court is comprised of 39 judges at five different locations as well as the adult and juvenile probation functions, a juvenile detention center, and a psychological services unit. The Circuit Court, therefore, serves diverse populations with a variety of needs. In an effort to address individual needs in a fair and consistent manner, the Circuit Court has adopted the following policy and procedures to comply with the ADA.

It is the policy of the Circuit Court to ensure that communications with and accommodations for individuals with disabilities and without disabilities are equally effective, consistent with the requirements of Title II of the ADA. The Circuit Court will make every effort to provide reasonable accommodations at no charge to ensure that individuals with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate in all aspects of the judicial system, including court proceedings, services, programs, activities and employment.

Accommodation means measures to make each court service, program, or activity, when viewed in its entirety, readily accessible to and usable by an applicant who is a qualified person with a disability, and may include but is not limited to making reasonable modifications in policies, practices, and procedures and furnishing, at no charge, auxiliary aids and services including but not limited to equipment, devices, materials in alternative formats, qualified interpreters, or readers. The Circuit Court is not required to take any action which would result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of a service, program, or activity or in undue financial or administrative burdens.

Person with a disability means a person covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 or other similar local, state, or federal laws. The term includes, but is not limited to, an individual who has a physical or mental impairment that limits one or more major life activities, has a documented history of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment.

Qualified person with a disability means a person with a disability who is otherwise entitled to participate in any program, service, or activity made available by the Circuit Court.