Document Type

White Paper

Publication Date



Tens of thousands of people incarcerated in jails and prisons throughout the United States have one or more communication disabilities, a term that describes persons who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, low vision, deaf-blind, speech disabled, or otherwise disabled in ways that affect communication. Incarceration is not easy for anyone, but the isolation and inflexibility of incarceration can be especially challenging, dangerous, and further disabling, for persons with disabilities. Correctional entities must confront these challenges; persons with communication disabilities are overrepresented in jails and prisons and the population continues to grow. Federal antidiscrimination law obligates jails and prisons to avoid discrimination, promote integration, and ensure effective communication. This requires adequate resources and preparation, joined by a shift in policy, practice, and values: to meet their antidiscrimination obligations, jails and prisons must offer choice, flexibility, and individuation well beyond what is typical in carceral environments. This white paper offers a starting point for such efforts.


© The Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse and the University of Michigan Law School. This paper may be copied and shared for any purpose, for free or at cost, with attribution. The model policies in Part III of the paper may be copied freely for any purpose with or without attribution, and may be freely adapted or amended so long as adaptations are not attributed to the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse and/or the authors.

Originally published as Bialek, Tessa and Margo Schlanger. Resource: White Paper: Effective Communication with Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Blind, and Low Vision Incarcerated People. Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse, 2022.