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Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

What is a “disability” that requires an accommodation?

According to the ADA rules: “Disability” means a physical or mental impairment that “substantially limits” one or more of a person’s major life activities.

How do I request a reasonable accommodation?

You should submit a request for an ADA accommodation to the Disability Access Coordinator in the judicial district where you have court. The names and contact information for the Disability Access Coordinator in each judicial district are available on the Iowa Judicial Branch website at:

You should submit your request to the Disability Access Coordinator by telephone or on the “Request for a Disability Accommodation" form, which is available from the Disability Access Coordinator in each judicial district and on the Iowa Judicial Branch website at the link above.

When should I ask for an accommodation?

It would be helpful to court staff if you submit your request for an ADA accommodation by telephone or by using the accommodation request form at least 7 business days prior to the court proceeding. This will give court staff enough time to make the necessary arrangements.

Do I need proof or verification of a disability to obtain an accommodation?

In most situations, you do not have to provide proof that you have a disability. However, sometimes the court may ask for a statement from a doctor if it is necessary to help determine the nature of the disability to know what accommodations will be necessary.

May spectators obtain reasonable accommodation to observe court proceedings?

Yes. Courts will provide reasonable accommodations to courtroom spectators. This includes providing a sign language interpreter for a deaf person who wishes to observe a court proceeding. However, a request for accommodation by a spectator on the day of a court proceeding might not be granted if it would require the court to delay the proceeding to obtain the services needed to provide an accommodation.

What accommodations are available for people who are legally blind or visually disabled?

Court staff can provide accommodations for people who are legally blind or visually disabled. Some examples include:

  • Helping to fill out court forms by writing in words the person provides to court staff, but court staff cannot tell the person what words to use.
  • Reading materials out loud in the courtroom.
  • Providing additional lighting.
What types of accommodations are available to assist people with mobility disabilities?

The court’s duty to provide an accommodation for people with mobility disabilities begins at the courthouse door. Court staff are not required to assist a person with a mobility disability from a car or from a location outside the courthouse into the courthouse.

After a person is inside the courthouse, the type of accommodation will depend on the nature of the disability. Accommodations may include:

  • Moving furniture in the courtroom to allow for appropriate placement of a person’s wheelchair.
  • Holding a proceeding in a more accessible room.
Do courts need to provide medical or other devices to accommodate a person’s disability?

According to the ADA rules on “personal devices and services,” a court is not responsible for providing devices of a personal nature such as prescription eyeglasses, hearing aids, wheelchairs, oxygen concentrators, or personal medical or attendant care.

May a person with a disability bring a service animal into a courtroom or court office areas?

Yes, a person with a disability may bring a service animal into all areas of a building where court users are normally allowed to go.

If a person wishes to bring an animal into a courtroom or court office area, however, the person should contact the judicial district’s ADA Coordinator to obtain approval before going to the court proceeding.

The following requirements apply to service animals:

  • The ADA requires an animal to be individually trained to perform tasks that relate directly to the disability in order to qualify as a service animal.
  • An animal that provides only emotional support or comfort is not a “service animal” for the purposes of this definition under the ADA.
  • A service animal must be under the control of its handler. The animal must have a harness, leash, or other tether, unless:
    • The handler is unable to use a harness, leash, or other tether, or
    • The use of a harness, leash, or other tether would interfere with the service animal's safe, effective performance of work or tasks.
    • If either of these situations applies, the service animal must be otherwise under the handler's control by voice control, signals, or other effective means.
  • If the animal’s behavior is disruptive in a court office area or courtroom (e.g., barking, growling), or the animal urinates or defecates, the animal may be removed from the courtroom or court office area.

Court staff are not responsible for the care or supervision of service animals.

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