captions in the video, ability to communicate with the official running the jury pool, and most importantly, the ability
to sit on a jury. The municipality had the technology and the
machinery, even though it was expensive, cumbersome
and somewhat difficult to install. Even with the apparent
willingness to work with the complainant, the municipality
still had problems in certain areas. But I wanted the mediation to fulfill its primary goal: the self-determination of
those participating in mediation to reach their own settlement through their own creativity.
Spending time with mother and seeing her as a central figure caused me to believe that working with other
mothers would be more productive and a more sharing
opportunity than loading the other side with senior male
attorneys. I requested the municipality to select at least
two of their high ranking officials to appear at the mediation who were mothers.
Next was the actual mechanical protocol for the mediation. Because of the disability, the same technology that
would be required for his jury service would be used in
the mediation session itself. This would mean the use of
computers, TTW, and a trained expert in using the technology in situations such as this. I had a brief discussion with
the expert before the mediation. In addition, I spoke with
mother and son before the mediation, trying to prepare
them for what they might expect and how the mediation
process would work, and how their voices, particularly the
voice of the young man, would be heard by those who have
the ability to make the necessary changes.
The mediation took place in a large conference room provided by the municipality. I planned to come one-half hour
before the scheduled start, and requested the technician
to come at least that early as well to set up all the computers and machinery necessary.
Much to my surprise and delight, the technician himself
had his own speech impediment and hearing loss. As we
talked and I learned more about the technical aspects, as
well as the personal experiences of the technician, I saw
something serendipitously developing.
I was on the mark that day. Mother and son also arrived
early. I immediately engaged the mother in conversation
hoping that after introductions were made but before the
other side arrived, the technician would see the opportunity to tell his own story to this young man. And that is
exactly what happened. The young man was enthralled,
not only with the technology which he had some previous
knowledge of, but more importantly, with the achievements of this particular technician.
The municipality attorneys and leaders arrived, all of
them mothers. After making introductions I stimulated
some socializing assisted by some fruits and breads I had
brought in for the session. I converted my normal open-
ing statement to a continuation of the social interaction
that was occurring. There was a free-flowing conversa-
tion without “and what do you say,” and “what do you
say.” As the stage was set, and all the right factors were
put in place, the role of the neutral mediator was basically
already fulfilled. They were not only talking, but they were
talking in each other’s languages trying to solve the prob-
lems in a very familial manner.
The municipality agreed that to have the video captioned
immediately, and to route all telephone communications
through a special number specifically provided for people
with hearing impairments. The jury participation itself
created a more complex problem, but nonetheless one
that everyone agreed had to be solved. They decided to
invite the chief judge to participate and assist in creating
the appropriate solution so that Joe could be a juror.
What was equally interesting was that as the accommodations were being discussed and put into place with time
limitations, much more was going on. A genuine friendship had been forged between Joe and the technician, who
could serve as a mentor. In learning what the technician
did, Joe gained confidence not only that he could serve
as a juror, but that there was a real possibility of obtaining employment in a field that he was particularly suited for
and interested in. Joe’s eyes were ablaze with emotions.
The mothers, as I would call them, had completely changed
the seating arrangement at the table, were all together,
talking, touching, and at some times, crying. Even the
attorneys from the municipality shared some of their own
experiences that, although not the same, were sufficiently
close as to create a bond.
As the song goes, it’s important to know when cards are
to be held rather than used. This was a time when active
intervention wasn’t needed, and perhaps would have been
counter-productive. Everyone had fulfilled their own needs.
I quietly folded my notebook and slipped away as I
overheard Joe ask the technician, “who was that masked
As the stage was set, and all the right factors
were put in place, the role of the neutral mediator
was basically already fulfilled.