Legal Services Improve for Persons with Disabilities at Amman Public Prosecution Department
Ahmad, a visually impaired 29 year old professional working at an IT company, recently spoke about his personal experience using the newly upgraded facilities at the Amman Public Prosecution Office (APPO) for people with disabilities (PWDs). “When I first used the Braille visual guidance boards to find my way through the waiting hall and different offices, I felt a great deal of independence to access legal services at APPO,” he recalls. “When I used to come to [the] Amman Palace of Justice and APPO, I faced very embarrassing moments when I had to ask people for assistance in direction. People would start giving directions to left and right, not considering that this was not helpful given my visual impairment. Now, with accessing the visual board using Braille method, I can move freely and independently to my required destination!”
According to a recent report titled, “Distribution of Private Households with Members Facing Difficulties in Body Functions Report”, there were an estimated 598,138 PWDs living in Jordan in 2015. This number comprised approximately 12% of the total Jordanian population. It is a segment of the population that scarcely benefits from legal services in Jordan. Of the 367,315 cases litigated in Jordan in 2015, less than 1% involved PWDs. This indicates that access to justice for PWDs is limited and should be subject to further investigation and support.
According to a Rule of Law Program (ROLP) study titled “Persons with Disabilities Access to Justice in Jordan”, there are currently no possible means to establish an accurate representation of persons with disabilities’ demand on the court system. However, there is strong evidence that such demand is limited for various reasons mentioned by the report-sampling PWDs group, including fear of stigma, fear of discrimination, expectations of inappropriate treatment, income, social situation, lack of accessibility, and accommodation limitations.
In response to the challenges and barriers within the court system, as provided by the ROLP study findings, USAID, in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice, considered accurate measures for improving facilities for PWDs at the Amman Palace of Justice (APOJ) and Public Prosecution Department. The improvement measures suggested sought to ensure that PWDs had access to the court system, information and communications, public facilities, and legal services. Improvements in these areas will also lead to accelerating the processing times for legal requests and procedures. Activities included installing over fifty Braille visual guidance boards for persons with visual impairment at the APPO and APOJ that provide access to information for required services, providing designated space for wheelchairs in the courtroom, renovating rest rooms that accommodate PWDs needs, case files in Braille method, and sign language interpretation.
Ahmad started spreading the good news of the new improvements at APOJ and APPO to other visually impaired people in his community, and encouraged them to come and try the new facilities when they need to access legal services. “I believe a great segment of the Jordanian community is served now and this will enhance their integration within the whole community,” said Ahmad.
ROLP, in cooperation with the MOJ, will continue its planned support to improve judicial capacity to address human rights cases and lack of access to justice on behalf of the disadvantaged populations by reengineering departments across Jordanian courts and adequately equipping them for meeting the needs of PWDs.