GR 33 Requests for Accommodation by Persons with Disabilities (a) Definitions. The following definitions shall apply under this rule: (1) "Accommodation" means measures to make each court service, program, or activity, when viewed in its entirety, readily accessible to and usable by a person with a disability, and may include but is not limited to: (A) making reasonable modifications in policies, practices, and procedures; (B) furnishing, at no charge, auxiliary aids and services, including but not limited to equipment, devices, materials in alternative formats, qualified interpreters, or readers; and (C) as to otherwise unrepresented parties to the proceedings, representation by counsel, as appropriate or necessary to making each service, program, or activity, when viewed in its entirety, readily accessible to and usable by a person with a disability. (2) "Person with a disability" means a person with a sensory, mental or physical disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. §§12101-12213), the Washington Law Against Discrimination (RCW 49.60 et seq.), or other similar local, state, or federal laws. (3) "Proceedings Applicant" means any lawyer, party, witness, juror, or any other individual who is participating in any proceeding before any court. (4) "Public Applicant" means any other person seeking accommodation. (b) Process for Requesting Accommodation. (1) Persons seeking accommodation may proceed under this rule. Local procedures not inconsistent with this rule may be adopted by courts to supplement the requirements of this rule. A disputed or denied request for accommodation is automatically subject to review under the procedures set out in subsections (d) and (e) of this rule. (2) An application requesting accommodation may be presented ex parte in writing, or orally and reduced to writing, on a form approved by the Administrative Office of the Courts, to the presiding judge or officer of the court or his or her designee. (3) An application for accommodation shall include a description of the accommodation sought, along with a statement of the disability necessitating the accommodation. The court may require the applicant to provide additional information about the qualifying disability to help assess the appropriate accommodation. Medical and other health information shall be submitted under a cover sheet created by the Administrative Office of the Courts for use by applicants designated "SEALED MEDICAL AND HEALTH INFORMATION" and such information shall be sealed automatically. The court may order that such information be sealed if it has not previously automatically been sealed. (4) An application for accommodation should be made as far in advance as practical. (c) Consideration. A request for accommodation shall be considered and acted upon as follows: (1) In determining whether to grant an accommodation and what accommodation to grant, the court shall: (A) consider, but not be limited by, the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (§ 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq.), RCW 49.60 et seq., and other similar local, state, and federal laws; (B) give primary consideration to the accommodation requested by the applicant; and (C) make its decision on an individual- and case-specific basis with due regard to the nature of the applicant's disability and the feasibility of the requested accommodation. (2) If an application for accommodation by a proceedings applicant is submitted five (5) or more court days prior to the scheduled date of the proceeding for which the accommodation is sought, and if the applicant otherwise is entitled under this rule to the accommodation requested, the accommodation shall be provided unless: (A) it is impossible for the court to provide the requested accommodation on the date of the proceeding; and (B) the proceeding cannot be continued without prejudice to a party to the proceeding. (3) If an application for accommodation by a proceedings applicant is submitted fewer than five (5) court days prior to the scheduled date of the proceeding for which the accommodation is requested, and if the applicant otherwise is entitled under this rule to the accommodation requested, the accommodation shall be provided unless: (A) it is impractical for the court to provide the requested accommodation on the date of the proceeding; and (B) the proceeding cannot be continued without prejudice to a party to the proceeding. (4) If a requested accommodation is not provided by the court under subsection (c)(2) or (c)(3) of this rule, the court must offer the applicant an alternative accommodation. (d) Denial: Proceedings Applicants. Except as otherwise set forth in subsection (c)(2) or (c)(3) of this rule, an application for accommodation by a proceedings applicant may be denied only if the court finds that: (1) the applicant has failed to satisfy the substantive requirements of this rule; (2) the requested accommodation would create an undue financial or administrative burden; (3) the requested accommodation would fundamentally alter the nature of the court service, program, or activity; or (4) permitting the applicant to participate in the proceeding with the requested accommodation would create a direct threat to the health or safety or well being of the applicant or others. (e) Decision: Proceedings Applicants. The court shall, in writing or on the record, inform the applicant and the court personnel responsible for implementing accommodations that the request for accommodation has been granted or denied, in whole or in part, and the nature and scope of the accommodation to be provided, if any. The decision shall be entered in the proceedings file, if any, or in the court's administrative files. If the court denies a requested accommodation pursuant to subsection (d) of this rule, the decision shall specify the reasons for the denial. If a requested accommodation is not provided by the court under subsection (c)(2) or (c)(3) of this rule, the court shall state: (1) the facts and/or circumstances that make the accommodation impossible under subsection (c)(2) or impractical under subsection (c)(3); and (2) the reasons why the proceeding cannot be continued without prejudicing a party to the proceeding. (f) Decision: Public Applicants. A public applicant should be accommodated consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 USC §§12101-12213) and the Washington Law Against Discrimination (RCW 49.60 et seq). The applicant shall, orally or in writing, be informed that the request for accommodation has been granted or denied. If requested, a written statement of reasons for denial shall be provided. Comment  Access to justice for all persons is a fundamental right. It is the policy of the courts of this state to assure that persons with disabilities have equal and meaningful access to the judicial system. Nothing in this rule shall be construed to limit or invalidate the remedies, rights, and procedures accorded to any person with a disability under local, state, or federal law.  Supplemental informal procedures for handling accommodation requests may be less onerous for both applicants and court administration. Courts are strongly encouraged to adopt an informal grievance process for public applicants whose requested accommodation is denied. [Adopted effective September 1, 2007; amended effective December 28, 2010.]
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