Disability Law - Archive

Judge: Class-action status allowed in deaf inmates’ lawsuit

October 13, 2015 in Disability Law, Hearing Loss & Deafness



The State Journal-Register
By Sophia Tareen, The Associated Press
Oct 12, 2015

CHICAGO – Attorneys who brought a 2011 complaint alleging the Illinois Department of Corrections violated the constitutional rights of deaf inmates said Monday that the case is proceeding after a federal judge granted class-action status to the lawsuit.

The complaint alleges deaf and partially deaf prisoners have limited access to sign language interpreters, hearing aids and other accommodations at Illinois prisons. The result, attorneys say, is exclusion and isolation because the prisoners can’t communicate, effectively leaving them to miss religious services, hearings, court-mandated classes, doctors’ visits and, sometimes, emergency evacuations.

Both sides were negotiating a settlement, but attorney Alan Mills said talks broke down. Last week, Judge Marvin Aspen in Chicago granted class-action status  . . . Read More – deaf inmates

A deaf man’s jail ordeal in Arlington: ‘I felt stuck. I was stuck.’

October 1, 2015 in Advocacy & Access, Community News, Disability Law



September 30

The way Abreham Zemedagegehu tells it, the six weeks he spent in the Arlington County, Va., jail nearly amounted to torture.

A deaf Ethio­pian immigrant with limited ability to speak or write English, Zemedagegehu says he missed two or three meals a week because he could not hear the announcement that it was time to eat. He says he went his entire stay without medication for back pain, struggled to communicate with jailers and was unable to make phone calls to friends outside.

In one particularly harrowing encounter, Zemedagegehu alleges, a jail staffer forced a needle into his arm — a tuberculosis test, he would later learn — after he refused to sign a medical consent form that he could not read.

“I felt stuck. I was stuck,” Zemedagegehu said, communicating in sign language through an interpreter. “There was no one to talk to me.”

Read more  . . . deaf man’s jail ordeal 

Recent Court Case Outcome Involving Deaf Prisoner

September 21, 2015 in Community News, Disability Law


September 11, 2015


When William Pierce, who is profoundly deaf, arrived at CTF to be taken into custody, prison officials took no steps whatsoever to evaluate his need for accommodation so that he would be able to have meaningful access to prison programs and services within the prison facility. They knew he was deaf, but instead of ascertaining what accommodations would be necessary for Pierce to communicate effectively in prison, they assumed that he could lipread and read the notes they wrote to him, even after he specifically requested an ASL interpreter.  The District insisted that the employees’ conduct with respect to accommodating Pierce’s deafness was entirely consistent with the law.  But the Court easily concluded that the District’s actions fell far short of what the law requires.   For details of the Courts Opinion and its outcome, see : https://ecf.dcd.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/show_public_doc?2013cv0134-90


Deaf Queens Man Fights Back Against Truck Driving School

July 26, 2015 in Disability Law, Employment



Eyewitness News
Friday, July 24, 2015
By Rob Powers

He looks like anybody, starting a vehicle, going to work, getting on with life.

Only, this life, this story, is a little different.

Kenneth Frilando is deaf and his story is worth hearing. He claims the “Smith & Solomon School of Tractor Trailer Driving” in Linden, New Jersey won’t take him on as a student. He says he also has a New York commercial driver’s license, and a safety waiver, and now he’s filed suit.

“I need to break that door down because that’s not fair. Safety is the number one thing that I’m concerned with, but they’re just assuming that safety is out the window because the person can’t hear, that’s not the case,” Frilando said.

Read More  . .Watch Video  . Deaf Truck Driver

Massachusetts testing program to clear way for deaf jurors

July 26, 2015 in Community News, Disability Law



Jul 24, 2015

Massachusetts is testing a program that would enable profoundly deaf people to serve on juries in state courts with the help of sign-language interpreters, in an effort described by advocates for the deaf as the most extensive in the United States.

The program, which has so far been tested in eight of the state’s 14 counties, aims to provide deaf Massachusetts residents summoned to jury duty with American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters from the moment they arrive at a courthouse, through jury selection and trial, officials said on Friday.

The program is expected to go into full operation statewide next year, said Heidi Reed, who heads the state’s Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

“We wanted to ensure that affected jurors who used ASL would have the opportunity to go through the selection process and potentially serve on a jury,” Reed said.

Previously, deaf people who were summoned for jury duty in the state had to specially request assistance or defer service. The state estimates that 1 percent of the population is deaf, with about 400 deaf people called for jury duty in a typical year.

Read more . . . . Jurors 

Celebrate NTID, ADA milestones this summer

June 12, 2015 in Community News, Disability Law



D&C Democrat Chronicle
by Gerard Buckley
June 5, 2015

In the span of less than two months this summer, we will celebrate the anniversaries of two major milestones that have changed the lives of millions of Americans, including my own.

The first of these anniversaries is June 8 — the 50 th anniversary of the signing of Public Law 89-36 by President Lyndon Baines Johnson. PL 89-36 is also known as the National Technical Institute for the Deaf Act, and for the first time in our nation’s history, it established a technological college for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, more commonly known now as STEM.

Since its establishment, NTID and its host institution, Rochester Institute of Technology, have graduated more than 7,000 deaf and hard-of-hearing students, and I’m proud to be one of them. I’m prouder still to now lead the college as we continue to help students earn degrees and hit the ground running in scientific, technical and professional careers.

Twenty-five years after PL 89-36 was enacted, I, by then an RIT/NTID alumnus, was fortunate to be invited by Sen. Robert Dole to witness the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990. The ADA has provided still more opportunities for equal access to Americans of all abilities. As President Bush said in his remarks that day, “With today’s signing … every man, woman and child with a disability can now pass through once-closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence and freedom.”

Read more  . . . milestones

Court reverses ruling terminating deaf mother’s parental rights

June 11, 2015 in Advocacy & Access, Disability Law



 Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier, Iowa

CHARLES CITY | A court ruling in which a deaf woman lost parental rights to her infant child has been reversed by the Iowa Court of Appeals and remanded back to Floyd County District Court.

The mother, who was not identified in court papers, gave birth to a son in 2014. After giving birth, the mother showed signs of depression and suicide. The hospital evaluated her and determined she was not a danger to herself or her child and released her, but contacted public service agencies to evaluate and assist her.

Court documents say the Department of Human Services worked with the mother and knew of her hearing impairment and that she used sign language. The department did not get a sign-language interpreter but instead relied on communicating with her in writing, according to court documents.

When the child was 1 month old, the state filed a “need of assistance” petition, alleging the mother was “deaf and mute and communication is difficult” and that the mother lacked basic parenting skills.

After several other legal actions, the district court terminated the mother’s parental rights. By that time, the child was 8 months old.

The mother appealed, citing several issues. The Court of Appeals reversed the district court action, citing one key factor, “the failure of the Department of Human Services to provide a sign language interpreter … knowing she was hearing impaired.”

In its ruling, the court said, “We conclude the department knew of the mother’s hearing impairment at the time of the child’s birth but made no effort to retain an interpreter until the child was 4 months old.

“The department’s refusal to furnish an interpreter immediately amounted to a violation of its statutory reasonable efforts obligation and a failure to satisfy the reasonable efforts prong of Iowa Code.”

Original Article

Hospitals’ failure to provide interpreter for deaf man led to his death, suit claims

May 26, 2015 in Disability Law, Hearing Loss & Deafness, Interpreting & Transliterating



Daily News
Tuesday, May 26, 2015,

New York – A deaf man suffering from end-stage kidney disease died alone at home on his birthday because two city-run hospitals didn’t have sign-language interpreters available to explain to him the seriousness of his condition, according to a lawsuit.

Andre Berry, 52, died Nov. 5, 2013, with a hospital catheter still attached to his body, his grieving sister told the Daily News.

“I was with him in the hospitals so many times and we would ask for an interpreter, and they would say we would have to wait for one to be paged and they never came. They never came,” said Denise Berry, 52.

“They treated him like he was a regular hearing person, and he wasn’t. He had special needs, and they never helped him, never gave him the interpreters that by law he was entitled to,” the distraught sibling said.

Read More  . . . Deaf Man Dies

Senator Markey Applauds FCC Extension of iCanConnect

May 22, 2015 in Community News, Disability Law




CONTACT: Giselle Barry (Markey) 202-224-2742

Markey Applauds FCC Extension of iCanConnect

Program brings free 21st century communications technologies to low income Americans with combined vision and hearing loss

Washington (May 21, 2015) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today praised the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) for extending iCanConnect, a pilot program that provides free access to 21st century communication technologies to low-income Americans with significant combined hearing and vision loss. Senator Markey is the House author of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) that established the iCanConnect program.

“Today’s decision by the FCC is an important step forward so that all Americans can participate in our increasingly interconnected world,” said Senator Markey, a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “Deaf-blind Americans face unique communications challenges, and iCanConnect ensures that they are able to utilize communications services and equipment fully. I look forward to working with the FCC to make iCanConnect permanent so that all Americans can access the opportunities that come from 21st century communications technologies.”

iCanConnect ensures access to tools such as specialized keyboards and computer monitors, braille devices, phones with amplified speakers and software that enables screen readers and braille displays.

Passed in 2010, the CVAA mandates accessibility of devices and services for the 54 million Americans with disabilities and enabled the use of a wide range of devices and services needed in the digital era, including smart phones for accessing the Internet, closed captioning for online video, audio descriptions of television programming, audible emergency alerts and other technologies.


Deaf New Yorkers demands NYPD learn how to treat those with hearing challenges

May 19, 2015 in Community News, Disability Law


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Four letters, scrawled in the dust of an NYPD patrol car, became a terrified woman’s only hope of survival: H-O-S-P.

Diana Williams, a deaf New Yorker who’s also unable to speak, traced the cryptic message with her index finger after contorting her body so her cuffed hands reached the side of the car.

“Hospital,” she then mouthed as tears spilled in soundless sobs. “Help. Help. Please. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.”

When a police officer nodded that he understood, she cried even harder — with relief. But the deaf woman’s ordeal was far from over.

Williams, 48, says she was an upbeat, confident woman before her still-stunning arrest after calling the police for help on Sept. 11, 2011. Now she’s in the third year of a bitter legal fight with the NYPD, still racked by the lingering terror from her 24 hours in police custody. “I have never been so terrified in my life,” Williams told the Daily News, through an interpreter.

Read article and …. watch signed video

Industry notches up big win in LA Supreme Court victory concerning workplace hearing loss

May 19, 2015 in Disability Law, Employment



Louisiana Record | Louisiana’s Legal Journal


NEW ORLEANS – Last week the Louisiana Supreme Court handed down a legal precedent that appears to put a halt on several tort cases in which employees working in loud work places have sued their employers for personal injury over hearing loss instead of pursuing workers’ compensation actions.

Over the past few years there has been an uptick in the number of personal injury lawsuits filed by industrial workers who claim they received personal injuries through working in loud, mostly industrial workplaces.

However, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled last week in favor of defendant Graphic Packing International Inc., the owner and operator of a paper mill, box and carton plant in West Monroe where plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit claim their hearing was damaged due to being subjected to hazardous industrial noises during their employment at the facility. While the 4th Judicial District Court in Ouachita Parish initially ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and granted them damages of $50,000 apiece, that ruling was later overturned on appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

In a 5-2 ruling, the Louisiana Supreme Court upheld the appeals court finding in favor of Graphic Packing International Inc. The majority decision noted that while the hearing loss may have occurred it was during the course and scope of the class members’ employment which should be regulated as an “occupational disease” under the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act.

Read  more  . . . workplace hearing loss

New Hawaii law accommodates deaf and blind in movie theaters

May 7, 2015 in Advocacy & Access, Disability Law



Hawaii News Now
By HNN Staff
May 06, 2015 9:12 PM EDT

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – A bill signed into law on Wednesday by Governor David Ige will make Hawaii the first state in the nation to mandate accommodations for the hearing and visually impaired at movie theatres statewide.

HB1272 requires anyone that operates a motion picture theater in more than two locations in the state to provide open captioning during at least two showings per week of each motion picture that is produced with open movie captioning. It also requires them to provide an audio description of any motion picture that is produced and offered with audio description. The measure takes effect Jan. 1, 2016 and sunsets Jan. 1, 2018.

“This law makes Hawaii the first state in the nation to mandate broader accommodations to allow equal access to movie theaters for our deaf, blind, deaf/blind and hard-of-hearing communities,” said the bill’s introducer Rep. James Tokioka (Wailua Homesteads, Hanamaulu, Lihue, Puhi, Old Koloa Town, Omao).

Read More  . . .movie theaters

Texas-Commissioners approve written communication policy for hearing-impaired

May 7, 2015 in Advocacy & Access, Disability Law, Hearing Loss & Deafness



The Gilmore Mirror
May 2, 2015

Gilmore, Texas –  Upshur County Commissioners Court on Thursday approved a written communication policy for dealing with the hearing-impaired, a move which County Judge Dean Fowler said means the county will no longer “be under the hand of the (United States) Department of Justice, which is a very good thing.”
Fowler told The Mirror someone filed a complaint against the county under the Americans With Disabilities Act in 2009, and the Justice Department investigated in 2010, the year the county made an agreement with the department to resolve it. That led to courthouse renovations performed in recent years, he said.The new communication policy means county employees will be given instructions on how to communicate with the hearing-impaired, such as passing notes back and forth, Fowler said. If needed, an interpreter can be brought in, he said.

An unnamed Tyler source, which would be paid only when it renders service, would provide sign language when needed, Fowler said. He said the county has only dealt with one such hearing-impaired person in 12 years.

The Gilmer Mirror – Commissioners approve written communication policy for hearing impaired



Deaf prisoner sues Onondaga County, NY over lack of sign-language interpreter at Justice Center

April 24, 2015 in Disability Law, Interpreting & Transliterating



By John O’Brien

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — A deaf inmate is suing Onondaga County over the lack of any sign language interpreters at the Justice Center jail.

Joseph Williams, 39, sued the county in federal court last week, claiming the county is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by not providing an interpreter for him.

Williams has been totally deaf since birth, and learned to communicate only through American sign language, according to his lawsuit. He can’t read lips and has a limited ability to read and write, according to his lawyer, Josh Cotter of Legal Services of Central New York.

Williams has been at the Justice Center since November, when he was arrested on burglary charges related to a break-in at a Syracuse home in which copper pipes were stolen.

Read more . . . deaf inmate

After Fan Pressure, Netflix Makes ‘Daredevil’ Accessible To The Blind

April 19, 2015 in Advocacy & Access, Disability Law, Technology



National Public Radio
APRIL 18, 2015

Netflix’s original series now have a superhero among them. Comic fans know Daredevil as a crusader. He’s a Marvel character who, in addition to his superhuman abilities, has a very human disability: blindness.

Needless to say, Daredevil has quite a few fans with visual impairments — and they were looking forward to the show.

But until this week, Netflix had no plans to provide the audio assistance that could have helped those fans follow the show.

The FCC requires broadcasters to provide audio descriptions of many programs so blind people can enjoy TV along with everyone else.

But Netflix isn’t a broadcaster — it’s an Internet-based service. And they didn’t plan to provide that audio.

In other words, the superhero would not have been able to enjoy his own program.

Robert Kingett, a journalist and activist in Chicago, is a fan of Daredevil. He’s blind and also lives with cerebral palsy. And when he learned the show wouldn’t have audio descriptions, Kingett recalls, “I said, ‘Well, that’s just utterly insane.’ ”

Read more  . . . Netflix