I-2-6-12.Hearing Procedures — Hearing-impaired Claimant
Last Update: 10/18/19 (Transmittal I-2-228)
A. Sign Language Interpreter
When using an American Sign Language interpreter at the hearing, the administrative law judge (ALJ) will:
Position the claimant so that he or she is facing the interpreter and can easily see all other hearing participants, including the appointed representative.
Direct all questions and comments to the claimant, not the interpreter.
Speak slowly, phrase questions and comments as clearly as possible, and not use idiomatic or slang expressions.
B. Real-time Reporting
When using real-time reporting (see Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law (HALLEX) manual I-2-1-72 B), the ALJ must ensure the claimant has full and simultaneous access to the speech-to-text transcription of the hearing and that the recording and transcription equipment functions properly during the hearing. If the claimant raises issues regarding the effectiveness of the communication during the hearing that cannot be addressed or corrected, the ALJ will seek a more effective means of communication.
If the ALJ determines that allowing the claimant to lip-read is appropriate, the ALJ will be careful to speak slowing during the hearing and face the claimant at all times so that he or she has an unobstructed view of the ALJ's face. The ALJ will also ensure that claimant can easily see all other hearing participants, including the appointed representative.
An ALJ should only allow lip-reading when all persons participating in the hearing, such as a vocational expert or medical expert, will appear at the hearing in person or via video-teleconferencing.
D. Written Notes
If the claimant has difficulty lip-reading or understanding a particular question in sign language, or if real-time court reporting is not effective, the ALJ may choose to communicate with the claimant through a written note. If the ALJ uses written notes, the ALJ must read the notes into the record. If the ALJ finds written notes are frequently needed, the ALJ will adjourn the hearing and continue it at another time with a more reliable method of communication.
E. Objections by the Claimant to the Method of Communication
If a hearing-impaired claimant objects to the accuracy and quality of the communication during the hearing, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant is receiving a full and fair hearing.
If the ALJ concludes the claimant is receiving a full and fair hearing, the ALJ must note the claimant's objections on the record, proceed with the hearing, and address the objections during the hearing or in the decision.
If the ALJ concludes the claimant is not receiving a full and fair hearing, the ALJ will adjourn the hearing and continue it at another time with a more reliable method of communication.
A claimant's right to a full and fair hearing includes accurate and quality communication throughout the entire hearing. If the need for a more reliable communication method is not identified until after the hearing has started, the ALJ will, using the more reliable communication method, ensure the claimant understands what has transpired in the hearing to that point.
A hearing office's difficulty in arranging for a more reliable communication method is not a valid reason for transferring a case to a different hearing office.