26 Jul STATEMENT: TCRP celebrates the 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Contact: Melissa Martinez
Phone: 210.867.3506
Email: melissa@texascivilrightsproject.org

STATEMENT: TCRP celebrates the 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

 

Austin, TX — On this day in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law, prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities. The Texas Civil Rights Project has a long history of successful ADA litigation, improving economic opportunities and fighting inequalities that exist for Texans with disabilities.

This year, on the 27th anniversary of the ADA, TCRP celebrates several recent victories for individuals with disabilities:

Heiwa Salovitz and Sarah Watkins v. Uber Technologies, Inc.: In 2014, our clients sued Uber for inaccessibility to  wheelchair-bound individuals. After Uber left Austin, a settlement agreement was reached stating that if Uber returned, it would, within two years, provide equivalent service through a wheelchair accessibility product. Uber will also meet and confer with disability rights group ADAPT on a quarterly basis.¹

Senate Bill 1051: This law provides accommodations to deaf and hard of hearing students in required driver education courses, and will go into effect on Sept. 1. In 2011, TCRP sued on behalf of  driver’s ed students with hearing disabilities when their requests for sign-language interpreters were denied. Pro bono counsel Joe Sanders of Sanders Bajwa LLP and Olga Kobzar of Scott Douglas McConnico in Austin took the case through appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court, but it was ultimately not heard because the Plaintiffs aged out of the relevant age group. Sanders and Kobzar worked with legislators to craft a bill with a solution. “I’m so happy to have gotten this across the finish line. We have succeeded – after almost 6 years – in our quest to change the law and to change hundreds of lives in Texas,” Sanders explained after the bill was enrolled.

Willie Nelson and Yvonne Dials v. Nancy A. Berryhill in her official capacity as the Acting Director of the Social Security Administration (SSA): In 2014, our clients, who are from North Texas and had difficulty accessing SSA services, sued the SSA for violating the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a disability rights law similar to the ADA. The SSA refused their requests for a qualified sign-language interpreter and failed to accommodate their hearing disability to ensure effective communication when they tried to make appointments. This year, the parties reached a settlement requiring the SSA to provide training to all current and newly-hired field employees nationwide on accommodating deaf and hard of hearing applicants and, in consultation with the Deaf Action Center, deaf sensitivity and awareness. The settlement also requires the SSA to provide Video Remote Interpreting services at the offices at issue in the case. TCRP is not aware of any SSA offices in North Texas that provided Video Remote Interpreting services at the time of the settlement.

JoElla Verlee Coffey and Terry May v. Ochiltree County:  In April, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas approved a settlement of over $600,000 for the family of Amber May, a woman who killed herself while in custody at the Ochiltree County Jail due to poor training, screening, monitoring, and oversight. The settlement, secured by TCRP and the University of Texas Civil Rights Clinic, also requires heightened mental health screening at booking, improved monitoring of inmates showing suicide risk, and the modification of cell conditions to prevent suicides.

National Disability Voter Registration Week (NDVRW): During the week of July 17-21, TCRP joined disability advocates from around the state to promote voter registration and participation in the political process among the disability community. At least nine events were coordinated to register voters and raise awareness. The week kicked off with a press conference and Volunteer Deputy Registrar Training at the Disability Rights Texas Office, where 25 people were trained to register voters in Travis County.

 

Efrén C. Olivares, the Racial & Economic Justice Director with the Texas Civil Rights Project, said:

“The ADA is as important now as it was when it passed in 1990. We will continue to diligently protect the accessibility to public services, facilities and benefits for individuals with disabilities. Our team’s successes in this area has changed the lives of thousands of Texans, and we are proud to celebrate this anniversary alongside our disability rights allies.”

 

1 Uber makes no representation about the feasibility of providing similar service in other markets. The parties understand that each market in which Uber operates is unique, and its ability to provide service, as well as what constitutes “equivalent” service, vary and are affected by each market’s individual characteristics, including but not limited to product participation, community involvement, geographical logistics, and compliance with state and local regulations.

The Texas Civil Rights Project uses legal advocacy to empower Texas communities and create policy change. In its twenty-five year history, TCRP has brought thousands of strategic lawsuits, defending voting rights, fighting institutional discrimination, and reforming systems of criminal justice. Today — with dozens of high-caliber attorneys and professionals in Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Houston and the Rio Grande Valley, and an extensive network of pro bono counsel and community allies — TCRP is among the most influential civil rights organizations in the Lone Star State.