May5th (9:00 – 12:00)
Committee Co-Chairs Sam Overton and Eve Hill opened the meeting.
Introduction of Committee Members and Alternates
New committee members and alternates introduced themselves to the committee: Judge Norma L. Shapiro, a new member and U.S. District Judge representing the American Bar Association; Patrick Cannon, a new member representing the Michigan Commission of the Blind; Judge Michael R. Hogan, who represents the Ninth Circuit for the U.S. Courts; and Tracy Justeson, who serves as an alternate representative for the U.S. Department of Justice.
Presentation on the Master Plan for the District of Columbia Courts
Michael Kazan of Gruzen Samton, Architects, Planners, and Interior Designers LLP, outlined the master plan for the renovation of the complex of D.C. court facilities at Judiciary Square in downtown D.C. His briefing described renovations that have been completed or are planned for the future including, including new family court facilities and renovated entrances at the Moultrie Courthouse, renovation of the old courthouse and city hall building as the new location for the D.C. Court of Appeals, and a plan to clarify and make more accessible circulation paths between facilities of the site.
Reports from Subcommittee Co-Chairs
Subcommittee co-chairs provided updates on the work completed since the last committee meeting by the Education and Outreach Subcommittee (Stephanie Vierra), the Courtroom Subcommittee (Kimberly Paarlberg), and the Courthouse Subcommittee (Cheryl Killam). Vierra noted the subcommittee’s work revising its list of target audiences, (judicial associations, state bar and disability consumer organizations, and the design community), gathering existing resources and educational materials, and determining the types of information that needs to be developed. Paarlberg described the efforts completed to date collecting existing information for the subcommittee’s use, including design guides, examples of courtroom accessibility, and information from different state codes. Killam outlined the process under which the subcommittee has adopted priorities (new construction to be the focus with issues specific to additions, alterations, and existing facilities to be addressed as needed) and identification and assignment of different courthouse elements to be explored.
The committee adjourned for lunch and an afternoon tour of the D.C. Superior Court and Court of Appeals.
May 6th (9:00 – 12:00)
Approval of Minutes
The committee approved without change the minutes for the previous committee meeting held February 10th and 11th in Phoenix.
Next Committee Meeting (Chicago, August 4th and 5th)
Overton announced that Gate Lew will organize a presentation on lifts based on a GSA study at the next meeting in Chicago and that Dave Yanchulis will provide a briefing on signage and wayfinding. He also noted that more time would be allotted for subcommittees to meet in separate session and in full session so that they can provide briefings on their progress and coordinate their work. He asked that subcommittees collect as much information as possible by the Chicago meeting, including plans for envisioned products. He indicated that a facility tour was proposed for the Wednesday before the committee meetings and asked for members to indicate their interest in such a tour. Many in attendance expressed interest in participating in a tour. Additionally, Overton noted that the American Bar Association (ABA) will be meeting in Chicago at the same time as the committee and that there may be an opportunity for members to meet ABA representatives. Judge Norma Shapiro, ABA’s representative on the Committee, indicated that she will coordinate with the ABA’s Commission on Disability and its Board of Governors.
AIA Architecture for Justice Conference
Denis Pratt announced that he submitted a proposal for a presentation on the work of the committee at the American Institute of Architects’ Architecture for Justice Conference in San Diego in November and that an hour slot has been reserved on the conference agenda. He invited members of the committee to attend. Overton asked members to indicate their willingness to attend. (Affirmative responses received from Judge Fred Horn, Luis Pitarque, Eve Hill, Bob Schwartz, Tom Shields, Jim Reed, and Don Birdsall). Schwartz noted that facility tours are often part of the conference and recommended that a person who uses a wheelchair be part of the tour to help attending architects under accessibility issues. Overton agreed to attend barring any schedule conflict.
Question and Answer Session on the Moultrie Courthouse
Mary Ann Satterthwaite, Chief Capitol Projects Manager for the D.C. Courts, answered questions from committee members about the D.C. court facility (Moultrie Courthouse) toured the previous afternoon. She responded to questions concerning fixed seating in witness stands and jury boxes, experiences with use of removable witness stand platforms, judges’ benches, gates between the well of the court and spectator seating, and recommendations on educating judges on accessibility.
Stephanie Vierra briefed the committee on the development of a website for the committee’s use which will be housed on the Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG) website, including its basic organization and the progress made to date. She noted that members will be provided log-in instructions once the site is operational. This site will include a general section and a separate section for each subcommittee. She asked that each subcommittee give thought to a general mission statement for posting on its section of the site and recommended that a representative for each subcommittee be responsible for having information posted to the website through the contracted webmaster. She responded to questions concerning the security level for the site and protocols for posting information.
Presentation on Assistive Listening Systems
Marcia Finisdore, who represents Self Help for Hard of Hearing People (SHHH) on the committee, and David Baquis of the Access Board presented on hearing loss and assistive listening systems. Finisdore provided a sense of what it means to have a hearing loss and covered information on different degrees of hearing loss and their prevalence, how communication and audible information is enhanced for people who are heard of hearing, challenges faced by this population, and SHHH’s mission and resources. Baquis outlined different hearing assistive technologies, including assistive listening systems (ALSs), telecommunication devices, signaling systems, and captioning. Focusing on ALSs, he indicated where they may be needed in courthouses, how these systems work, different types of systems and the technologies they use, important considerations for their selection, use, and operation, and how to advertise that such systems are available.
Presentation on Acoustics
Lois Thibault of the Access Board briefed the committee on considerations for good acoustics in courthouses through room design and construction which is as important at the technologies that are available to improve sound or facilitate hearing. She explained fundamental aspects of acoustics, including signal-to-noise ratio, reverberation, and background noise. She noted areas in courthouses, other than courtrooms, where attention to acoustics is important, such as jury deliberation rooms. She discussed standard methods for improving acoustics by minimizing reverberation and background noise through room design and construction materials. She also addressed white noise devices in courtrooms and considerations for their proper placement.
Presentation on Interpreting Services at the D.C. Superior Court
Francis Burton, Coordinator of the Office of Court Interpreting Service for the D.C Superior Court, briefed the committee on the how sign language and foreign language interpretation services are provided for the D.C. courts and usage rates. He answered questions from members concerning the provisions of these services for jurors, witnesses, and litigants, certification and training of, and mentoring programs for, interpreters, program costs and budgeting, location of interpreters in courtrooms, and other topics.
The committee then adjourned for lunch and subcommittee breakout sessions.
The committee reconvened briefly before final adjournment at the end of the day. Overton asked for any comments or suggestions concerning the work of the committee or the next meeting in Chicago. Vierra requested that the schedule for the next meeting enable the subcommittees to work together and to further coordinate their work.