Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Arts in Political Science


Political Science

Major Advisor

Ross Burkhart, Ph.D.


Lori Hausegger, Ph.D.


Jaclyn Kettler, Ph.D.


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law which, among many other regulations, requires that d/Deaf individuals involved in criminal cases be provided with a qualified interpreter of their language, usually American Sign Language (ASL). A qualified interpreter is not defined within the law and states are left to determine what does or does not constitute qualified. This study analyzes the various ways in which d/Deaf individuals should be treated differently within the justice system due to their differences in communication, as well as how statutes defining the qualification of interpreters may be most inclusive of the variances in communication. A qualitative approach is used to analyze specific cases in which d/Deaf defendants claimed their rights were infringed upon to present ways in which the laws may be improved going forward. Included is the Idaho case of Alan Wilding, who claims improper interpretation led to him pleading guilty to a felony grand theft charge when he believed he was pleading guilty to a misdemeanor. Another case is from Maine in which Dean Green argued that not being provided with an interpreter infringed upon his rights, though he had consented to his friend interpreting during the proceedings. I conclude that the quality of interpreters for d/Deaf individuals can have a significant impact on the outcomes of criminal cases. I further conclude that laws which look to define “qualified interpreter” are varied, which has both benefits and downfalls. We must constantly look to analyze the impact of our laws and ensure the protection of marginalized groups such as members of the d/Deaf community.