Research has revealed that persons with communication disabilities are at high risk
of becoming victims of crime and are often repeat victims. Most people who are
victims of crime turn to the criminal justice system for recourse by reporting the
crime to the police and testifying in a criminal trial against the accused perpetrator.
However, persons with communication disabilities may find accessing and
participating effectively in the criminal justice system difficult. This is because
participation in the criminal justice system is predominantly through oral testimony
and, more often than not, people with communication difficulties are not offered the
correct support to enable them to participate effectively in the criminal justice system.
Article 13 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities guarantees
the right of persons with disabilities to access justice on an equal basis with others
through the provision of ‘procedural and age-appropriate accommodations’. With
South Africa as the jurisdictional focus, this chapter will use the human rights model
for disability to demonstrate that all persons with communication disabilities can
and should participate in the criminal justice system on an equal basis with others.
The article will proceed to suggest specific accommodations which may be made in
South African courts to give effect to South Africa’s obligations under article 13 of
the CRPD to ensure effective access to justice for persons with communication