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September 30

The way Abreham Zemedagegehu tells it, the six weeks he spent in the Arlington County, Va., jail nearly amounted to torture.

A deaf Ethio­pian immigrant with limited ability to speak or write English, Zemedagegehu says he missed two or three meals a week because he could not hear the announcement that it was time to eat. He says he went his entire stay without medication for back pain, struggled to communicate with jailers and was unable to make phone calls to friends outside.

In one particularly harrowing encounter, Zemedagegehu alleges, a jail staffer forced a needle into his arm — a tuberculosis test, he would later learn — after he refused to sign a medical consent form that he could not read.

“I felt stuck. I was stuck,” Zemedagegehu said, communicating in sign language through an interpreter. “There was no one to talk to me.”

Read more  . . . deaf man’s jail ordeal 


September 11, 2015


When William Pierce, who is profoundly deaf, arrived at CTF to be taken into custody, prison officials took no steps whatsoever to evaluate his need for accommodation so that he would be able to have meaningful access to prison programs and services within the prison facility. They knew he was deaf, but instead of ascertaining what accommodations would be necessary for Pierce to communicate effectively in prison, they assumed that he could lipread and read the notes they wrote to him, even after he specifically requested an ASL interpreter.  The District insisted that the employees’ conduct with respect to accommodating Pierce’s deafness was entirely consistent with the law.  But the Court easily concluded that the District’s actions fell far short of what the law requires.   For details of the Courts Opinion and its outcome, see :