Communication difficulties are perhaps the most significant issue faced by people with intellectual disability when they navigate the justice system.
This difficulty is a result of both the communication and comprehension skills of the person with intellectual disability, and the communication skills and styles of non-disabled people within the criminal justice system in their interactions with people with intellectual disability. (For more information, see the section ‘Barriers to communication for people with intellectual disability in the counselling context’.)
People with intellectual disability are a diverse group with diverse communication needs. The ability of an individual to be a witness in court should be assessed for each situation, based on the specific requirements of the task and what accommodations can be made.
Despite general cognitive difficulties with memory, there is evidence that people with intellectual disability can give accurate testimony when appropriate considerations around interviewing conditions and questioning styles are made (Kebbell, Hatton, Johnson & O’Kelly, 2001).