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September 29, 2023

Judges Can Lead the Way to Inclusion

By Hon. Juliet Britton*

As Judges, it is easy to overlook how our daily practices in the courtroom set the tone for whether attorneys and peers with disabilities view the court as inclusive or not. For example, if our focus is on getting through busy dockets in the fastest way possible, our message to attorneys is do not ask for breaks or other accommodations that might slow the docket down. I challenge my colleagues to think of how they can create a welcoming and inclusive culture where attorneys and peers feel comfortable asking for the accommodations they need to do their job to the best of their abilities.

Some ways to do this include:

  • Add language in your local court rules stating the court’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and include attorneys with disabilities
  • Set up, manage, and publicize a policy and process for attorneys and peers with disabilities to request accommodations
  • Recognize that people with the same disability may need different accommodations
  • Create a quiet/sensory room in the courthouse for attorneys
  • Ensure that real-time captioning and American Sign Language interpreters are available to attorneys and peers
  • Understand and familiarize yourself with the types of assistive technology available for persons with disabilities and how they are used
  • Designate a judge to be the Accessibility Liaison for the local bar, ideally the Presiding Judge
  • Have your courthouse and courtroom evaluated for physical and digital accessibility
  • Ensure that your court’s website is accessible
  • Assemble experts and disabled individuals to discuss changes, policies, and procedures that can be implemented to create an inclusive and accessible court
  • Conduct trainings for all court staff on disabilities, ableism, appropriate language, and etiquette
  • Examine and recognize your attitudes, biases, and misconceptions about disabilities
  • Sponsor a CLE with attorneys and peers with disabilities that focuses on best practices for creating a welcoming and inclusive courtroom culture
  • Check in with attorneys before going on the record and ask how you can best support them
  • Sign the ABA Pledge for Change: Disability Diversity in the Legal Profession (

*Hon. Juliet Britton is the Presiding Judge of the Beaverton Municipal Court in Oregon and serves as a Commissioner on the ABA Commission on Disability Rights