NAD Lawsuit Against Harvard and MIT Moves Forward, Obligation to ensure equal treatment applies in emerging technologies

November 4, 2016 — Judge Mark G. Mastroianni of the District Court of Massachusetts denied Massachusetts Institute for Technology’s (MIT) and Harvard University’s motions to dismiss the National Association of the Deaf’s (NAD) and other named plaintiffs’ complaint that the institution discriminates against deaf and hard of hearing people by failing to caption the vast and varied array of online content they make available to the general public, including massive open online courses (MOOCs). Today’s decision affirms that plaintiffs’ case will be going forward. MIT and Harvard suffered a huge blow to their positions that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act do not require the institution to provide closed captions on its online videos that it makes open and available to the world. Plaintiffs are represented by Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF), Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC), NAD, and Disability Law Center (DLC) in the lawsuit against MIT, and by CREEC, NAD, and DLC in the lawsuit against Harvard. Arlene Mayerson, DREDF Directing Attorney, said, “I am thrilled that we have made this important inroad into ensuring that 21st century online education is accessible to all.” Today’s decision rejected Harvard’s and MIT’s arguments that they were “entitled to statutory exemptions for accommodations that impose an unreasonable financial or administrative burden, or require a fundamental change in the good at issue.” Judge Mastroianni noted Defendants’ arguments were “inappropriate for resolution on a motion to dismiss. A motion to dismiss addresses the plausibility of a plaintiff’s claims, not the strength of a defendant’s affirmative defenses.” Tim Fox, CREEC Co-Executive Director,...

CREEC & DMFHC Settle Family Status and Disability Housing Discrimination Complaints

Denver, CO — The Denver Metro Fair Housing Center (DMFHC) and the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC) resolved fair housing complaints against a management company that explicitly discriminated against families with children and people with disabilities. When DeWayne Curtis was looking for an apartment for himself, his wife, and his toddler son, he responded to a Craigslist ad for the Langford Apartments in Littleton. When he reached the apartment manager, however, he was told that the apartment did not accept families with children. Mr. Curtis, knowing this was illegal, reached out to the DMFHC. The DMFHC conducted an undercover investigation of the Langford, in which the management company’s employee was caught on tape telling investigators, “no kids,” and “we don’t accept children.” He also told a Deaf investigator, “we don’t allow service animals,” and “if you’re deaf I don’t think this is the place for you.” These are all open and shut fair housing violations. DMFHC, with the help of lawyers at CREEC, filed complaints with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) against Katchen & Company and the owners of the Langford for discriminating against families with children and people with disabilities on July 12, 2016. These complaints follow two previous complaints against Katchen, one of which resulted in DMFHC educating Katchen staff on fair housing laws requiring reasonable accommodations for service animals; the second — not long after — requiring a lawsuit to prevent the eviction of two Katchen tenants following their requests to accommodate their service animals. Under the Fair Housing Act, owners, managers, and other housing providers must make reasonable accommodations in their...
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