Why are Spreading the Flu and Violating the ADA...so much alike?

Submitted by Kevin Williams on December 30, 2014 - 2:53pm

 

 




Why Are Spreading the Flu

and Violating the ADA…

 
 




…So Much Alike?

 

 

We just don’t listen!

 

For twenty-five years, the nation has been telling people not to discriminate on the basis of disability, apparently unsuccessfully. The Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition Legal Program has been plenty busy. The work is not slowing down. Everyone still seems to violate the ADA.

 Our legal team hasn’t done extensive flu research, but for as long as CCDC’s Legal Program Director can remember, we have been told to get a flu shot, cover our mouths when we cough and sneeze, and otherwise try not to spread influenza among our friends, family members and colleagues. Yet, everyone still seems to get the flu.

 So here we are: every year, we have a bunch of lawsuits and a bunch of influenza. This year, the Legal Program is going to help you stop both. But first, a little bit of background.

 To try to avoid the ADA lawsuit epidemic, we sent open records act requests to all 64 County Sheriffs’ Offices in Colorado requesting information concerning policies and procedures for providing deaf inmates with sign language interpreters and other appropriate auxiliary aids and services. Unfortunately, we discovered that the policies in place were woefully inadequate, and many offices had no policies at all. Which struck us as strange considering the United States Department of Justice regulations in place since 1991: “A public entity [like a Sheriff’s Office] shall take appropriate steps to ensure that communications with applicants, participants, members of the public, and companions with disabilities are as effective as communications with others.” 28 C.F.R. § 35.160(a). In case you missed it, that’s twenty-four years. Even while in the process of obtaining these records, a number of deaf clients came to our door because law enforcement officials had not provided qualified sign language interpreters. In response, the Legal Program began the process of litigating against numerous Sheriffs’ Offices for not providing services. Each time we filed a lawsuit, the media paid attention, providing newspaper coverage and television interviews. As of today, we have filed lawsuits against the following law enforcement agencies for their failure comply with the ADA’s requirements for effective communication with those deaf persons who are arrested, questioned and detained:

 Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office

 Adams County Sheriff’s Office

 

Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office

City and County of Denver Sheriff’s Office

Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office

Englewood Police Department

Denver Police Department

Pueblo County Police Department

Lakewood Police Department

 And don’t be surprised to see more of these law enforcement cases coming around the bend. (Is it starting to sound like the flu to you, too?)

 Again, our efforts have not gone unnoticed by the media. With the Internet, stories get out very quickly about the ADA lawsuits we have filed.

 Beyond that, we have brought (and continue to bring) similar kinds of cases against numerous medical providers who also refused to provide sign language interpreters to our deaf clients.

 We consistently hear from our clients that hotel operators, restaurant operators, movie theater operators, those who operate transportation services, and others persist in failing their deaf clients. Take a look:

 CCDC Legal Program Current Cases                       CCDC Legal Program Past Cases

  Just a quick gander through our past endeavors shows that this Legal Program has filed well over 100 lawsuits and investigated and settled even more. Let’s face it. That is nothing to sneeze at!

 We’re approaching the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. As we make our way through the rest of what looks like a cold and snowy Colorado winter, CCDC’s Legal Program asks you to do two things for your community: (1) Cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze; and (2) take the time -- consult with inside or outside counsel if you have to -- to take a look at your policies, practices and procedures to ensure that you are in compliance with the ADA. So much of what you need to know is already available in easy-to-read bulletins on the Internet. For example:

 Communicating with People Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

ADA Guide for Law Enforcement Officers

Fact Sheet: Highlights of the Final Rule to Amend the Department of Justice's Regulation Implementing Title III of the ADA

 We wish you a happy, healthy, and compliant New Year!

 -Kevin Williams

  CCDC Legal Program Director

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