EOC Releases Guide on Equal Access to Justice for Persons Who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing
The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) held a press conference today (15 November 2022) to release a new guide, Equal Access to Justice for Persons Who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing: A Guide for Persons with Disabilities, Legal Practitioners, and Parties Involved in the Judicial Process (the “Guide”). In view that people who are deaf and hard of hearing (DHoH) have reportedly encountered barriers during the legal process due to misunderstanding or miscommunication in recent years, the EOC launches the Guide to provide some guiding principles for communicating with DHoH persons, as well as possible appropriate accommodation measures during different stages of legal proceedings.
Dr Ferrick CHU Chung-man, Executive Director (Operations) of the EOC said at the press conference, “As a statutory body tasked with implementing the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO) and eliminating disability discrimination in Hong Kong, the EOC strongly believes that persons with disabilities (PWDs) should enjoy equal rights before the law, and have effective access to justice. DHoH persons were reportedly to have encountered barriers during the legal process due to misunderstanding or miscommunication. Therefore, there is an urgent and paramount need for improving the relevant legal procedures to secure the fundamental rights of PWDs.”
The Guide aims to serve as a practical tool and resources for both DHoH persons and legal practitioners, including solicitors, barristers, judges, judicial officers, legal aid officers and court administrators. It provides some general tips and principles while communicating with DHoH persons and the sign language interpreter involved. In particular, it lays down specific “dos and don’ts” for effective communication, such as finding a well-lit and quiet area, attracting attention of DHoH persons before speaking, keeping good eye contact with DHoH persons, avoiding complex terms and languages, etc.
In addition, the Guide explains the rights of DHoH persons under the DDO, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Bill of Rights Ordinance and the Basic Law, in the context of equal access to justice. It also provides recommendations for different parties, namely the court, judges, judicial officers, legal representatives, sign language interpreters, and DHoH persons, as to what each participant can do to facilitate effective communication with DHoH persons.
“While relevant statistics have shown the heterogeneity and diversity of DHoH persons in Hong Kong, it is crucial to bear in mind that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ method while communicating with DHoH persons,” Dr CHU supplemented. “It is recommended that all public institutions in the justice system such as courtrooms, legal aid offices and police stations should equip themselves with as many and various forms of auxiliary aids and services as possible – such as sign language interpretation, assistive listening devices, speech-to-text reporters and lip-speaker – in order to meet the needs of different DHoH persons.”
Dr CHU continued, “We hope this Guide could facilitate communication between different parties in the judicial process and to achieve the ultimate goal of equal access to justice for all in the long run. This is especially important for an ageing city like Hong Kong with a growth in the number of persons with hearing difficulty in recent years.”
In compiling the Guide, the EOC has taken reference from various international standards and local practices, as well as consulting individuals and organisations from the local DHoH community, academics, sign language interpreters, legal practitioners, and public bodies, such as Department of Justice, Hong Kong Bar Association, Legal Aid Department, The Duty Lawyer Service, The Judiciary, The Law Society of Hong Kong, etc.
Mr Ricky CHU Man-kin, EOC Chairperson acknowledged the people who have provided assistance in making the Guide completed. Mr CHU said, “The EOC would like to express its sincerest gratitude to a number of experts, stakeholders, and organisations for assisting the consultation process and providing invaluable views and comments to the draft of the Guide.”
Equal Opportunities Commission
15 November 2022
The EOC released a new guide, Equal Access to Justice for Persons Who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing: A Guide for Persons with Disabilities, Legal Practitioners, and Parties Involved in the Judicial Process, today (15 November 2022). Dr Ferrick CHU Chung-man, Executive Director (Operations) of the EOC (centre); Ms Doris TSUI Ue-ting, Acting Head (Policy, Research and Training) of the EOC (left); and Mr James CHAN, Senior Policy, Research and Training Officer (right) of the EOC introduced the content of the Guide at the press conference.