Disability Law - Archive

Deaf Rhode Island man arrested for obscene sign language gesture

May 1, 2016 in Advocacy & Access, Disability Law



The Rhode Island branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, along with the Rhode Island Disability Law Center, has filed a federal lawsuit against the Woonsocket Police Department for the arrest of a deaf man.

They claim 25-year-old David Alves of North Smithfield was apprehended and detained for making an obscene sign language gesture.

On July 8 of last year, Alves, who is deaf, was at the City Side Club in Woonsocket with friends, including some who are also deaf or hard of hearing. He had just returned home from summer break at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.

Read more  . . . arrested  . . . See Captioned Video

Supreme Court Chief Justice learned sign language to swear in deaf lawyers

April 19, 2016 in Advocacy & Access, Community News, Disability Law



The Washington Post 

April 19

When a dozen lawyers rose together to be sworn into the Supreme Court bar Tuesday morning, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. made a sweeping motion with his hands.

It translated in American Sign Language to: “Your motion is granted.”

Roberts learned to sign the phrase just for that occasion, Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said.

That moving gesture alone made the admittance of 12 deaf lawyers to the highest court in the land historic. All were members of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Bar Association and were from various parts of the country.

Read more . . . Supreme Court Chief Justice

US Supreme Court to Welcome Deaf Attorneys to Bar in Unique Ceremony

April 12, 2016 in Community News, Disability Law


Voice of America
Chris Hannas
April 12, 2016 6:14 AM

A group of 13 deaf or hard-of-hearing attorneys will join the bar of the United States Supreme Court at a ceremony next week.

The Deaf and Hard of Hearing Bar Association (DHHBA) said that will be the largest such group to be admitted to the Supreme Court bar at one time.

The April 19 ceremony will also be unique in that the attorneys will be allowed to use their mobile phones to read real-time transcription of the proceedings. Mobile phones and other electronic devices are normally banned from the courtroom.

“Our admission sets a precedent that will hopefully encourage others with disabilities to pursue a legal career and view the legal profession as being open to diverse backgrounds,” said Anat Maytal, DHHBA’s president and one of the attorneys being sworn in.

Read more . . . Deaf Attorneys

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Fight to Be Heard

March 29, 2016 in Advocacy & Access, Community News, Disability Law



The New York Times

Lydia Callis wanted to get her mother a gym membership for Christmas last year. When she called to arrange a consultation, she mentioned that her mom (who lives in Arizona) is deaf and would need a sign-language interpreter for the session. The health club said it would not provide a signer. Ms. Callis — who became an Internet sensation during Hurricane Sandy as Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s exuberant sign-language interpreter — told the club that it was actually required by law to do so. Still it refused, and Ms. Callis, who was calling from Manhattan, gave up.

Last year was the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, and yet this kind of scenario plays out regularly for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. While the broader culture has become accustomed to certain changes the law has engendered, particularly wheelchair access, the rights of the deaf have frequently been misunderstood or simply disregarded.

Read more  . . . Fight to Be Heard


Speaker – Steven Gordon • USDOJ – ADA and Healthcare for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Patients – March 19th

March 11, 2016 in Community Events, Community News, Disability Law


ADA and Healthcare for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Patients

Was held Saturday, March 19,2016

This was a well attended informational event, handouts and slides can be downloaded at bottom of page

Reuben I. Altizer Meeting Room
Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons
3951 Pender Drive, Suite 130 Fairfax, VA 22030

Steven Gordon, Assistant United States Attorney – USDOJ

Assistant United States Attorney Steven Gordon will discuss a health care provider’s obligation to provide effective communication to patients (and companions) who are deaf or hard of hearing . Ensuring equal access in health care settings is necessary to comply with Federal law.

Mr. Gordon has been with the Department of Justice since 1995 and many of his recent cases come under the Department of Justice’s Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative targeting enforcement efforts on a critical area for individuals with disabilities – access to medical services and facilities.

Mr. Gordon invites your questions and will discuss recent enforcement actions and settlements including those in Northern Virginia.

All programs are captioned and ASL interpreted
Programs are free and open to the public
Donations welcome

Handouts for this presentation:


Judge reverses awarding damages to deaf inmate

February 18, 2016 in Community News, Disability Law



WGRZ-TV CH2 • Buffalo, NY
February 18, 2016

WILMINGTON, Del. — A deaf former inmate of the Delaware Department of Correction was denied compensation for his claims the needs of his disability weren’t met in prison.

Superior Court Judge T. Henley Graves on Monday reversed a decision from the Delaware State Human Relations Commission that awarded Robert Ovens damages over claims his jailers didn’t meet his needs under the state’s equal accommodation law. Graves ruled — in agreement with a previous case — prisons are not places of public accommodation under that law.

That doesn’t sit right with Debra Patkin, an attorney with the National Association for the Deaf who reviewed this week’s ruling.

Read More  . . . deaf inmate

Court rules Hopkins wrongly rescinded job offer to deaf nurse

January 27, 2016 in Community News, Disability Law, Employment



The Baltimore Sun
by Meredith Cohn – 
Contact Reporter
January 25, 2016

Hopkins rescinded a job offer of deaf nurse because of the cost of full-time interpreters.

Johns Hopkins Hospital violated the federal Americans with Disabilities Act when officials rescinded a job offer to a deaf nurse after she requested a sign-language interpreter, a U.S. District Court judge ruled last week.

Joseph B. Espo, a lawyer for the nurse, Lauren Searls, called it an “important victory” that could send a message to other medical institutions about the capabilities of deaf workers.

Hopkins had told Searls it was a cost issue in a letter, but in its response to the lawsuit, officials called her employment both a financial hardship and a threat to patient safety, Espo said. U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake rejected those arguments, he said.

Read More  . . . Deaf Nurse

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