April 01, 2018

Good News from the State of Washington

Dari Pogach

The pdf for the issue in which this article appears is available for download: Bifocal, Vol. 39 Issue 4.

Washington State’s Office of Administrative Hearings has an innovative approach to accommodating persons with disabilities.

Washington State’s Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) plans to offer “suitable representatives” to assist parties with disabilities navigate its hearing process. As of January 1, 2018, a new rule authorizes and charges the Office of Administrative Hearings to (1) establish a process for administrative law judges or any party to refer an individual to OAH’s Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator when there is a concern that the individual’s disability precludes meaningful access to the OAH adjudicative process, (2) establish a network of “suitable representatives” who can provide assistance, and (3) establish standards for training.

For more information about the process of promulgating this new rule see OAH’s website.

Under this novel approach a suitable representative is an accommodation for a disability akin to a sign language interpreter. The role of the suitable representative is to assist a party with navigating the administrative hearing process, which may include appearing on time for hearings, gathering evidence, and scheduling appearances. The suitable representative, who need not be an attorney, is not meant to advocate on the person’s behalf.

Within two years of its implementation, the program will be assessed for effectiveness. OAH and the Commission on Law and Aging are unaware of any similar programs in other states. Please e-mail any information about similar programs to aging@americanbar.org.

For more information about Washington’s program, contact The Honorable Lorraine Lee, Chief Judge Administrative Law Judge at Lorraine.Lee@oah.wa.gov.

Dari Pogach