Accommodations for All - The Importance of Meaningful Access to Courts for Pro Se Litigants with Mental Disabilities

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Chelsea Marx[*]

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires all public entities, including courts, to provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities to ensure equal access to programs and to prevent discrimination. Unfortunately, there has been little attention paid to reasonable accommodations for mental disabilities under the ADA because “after the ADA passed . . . the statute as applied to physical disabilities received the most attention.” However, the percentage of complaints filed under the ADA alleging discrimination based on mental disabilities is steadily increasing. Currently, the National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that “approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S.–-9.8 million, or 4.0%–experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.” Thus, these individuals qualify for protection under the ADA. Due to the increasing prevalence of mental disabilities in America, it is imperative for the Colorado court system to consider how to accommodate these individuals like other public entities have, especially when individuals with mental disabilities are representing themselves pro se in civil proceedings.

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