The United States Law Week

Deaf Civil Detainee Wins Suit Over Video Communications Access

Jan. 13, 2021, 3:46 PM

Federal corrections officials violated the First Amendment rights of a deaf civil detainee by denying him the means to communicate with other members of the deaf community through point-to-point videophone calls, the Fourth Circuit said Wednesday.

Alternative forms of communication made available to Thomas Heyer by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, including access to a teletypewriter and video relay services, are insufficient, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit said.

The risks of point-to-point calls, in which participants communicate exclusively through American Sign Language, are mitigated by safety features that have managed those risks for other detainees,...

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