Settlement Requires Major Improvements in Conditions for Prisoners With Disabilities at Montana State Prison

ACLU, CREEC, and the Montana Department of Corrections Resolve Americans with Disabilities Act Claims Remaining from 1994 Class-Action Lawsuit Over Prison Conditions FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 2, 2017 CONTACT: ACLU of Montana, 406-203-3374, media@aclumontana.org Amy Robertson, Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center, 303-551-5156, arobertson@creeclaw.org Alexandra Ringe, national ACLU, 212-549-2582, aringe@aclu.org MISSOULA, Mont. — Attorneys for prisoners with disabilities at the Montana State Prison and the state of Montana today filed a proposed settlement agreement that will bring the prison into greater compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. This agreement guarantees that prisoners with physical disabilities will have greater access to facilities and programs at the prison that are available to the rest of the population, like vocational training programs and prison jobs. In addition, the agreement requires that prisoners with mental disabilities shall be given reasonable accommodations when needed, such as in disciplinary hearings and education programs. Prisoners with disabilities will not be disciplined for behavior that is a product of a mental illness or physical disability. They will also be ensured the accommodations they need to participate in work assignments. “The Montana Department of Corrections is to be congratulated for working with the plaintiffs to reach this settlement,” said Jon Ellingson, lead local counsel and staff attorney for the ACLU of Montana. “The department’s actions demonstrate a commitment to prison reform that both helps prisoners rehabilitate and benefits the public when these prisoners reenter society after serving their terms.” The class-action lawsuit, Langford v. Bullock, originated 23 years ago following riots at the Montana State Prison. The parties reached a settlement long ago, and the prison complied...

Class Action Lawsuit Alleges Disability Discrimination at Red Rocks Amphitheatre

A coalition of local disability-rights organizations filed a class action suit in Colorado’s Federal District Court yesterday claiming that the City of Denver has acted to deny those who use wheelchairs the opportunity to meaningfully access to Red Rocks Amphitheatre.  CREEC and its co-counsel at the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC) and Disability Law Colorado (DLC) filed the suit against the City of Denver, claiming disability discrimination for failure to make reasonable accommodations to allow people who use wheelchairs to access and enjoy Red Rocks Amphitheatre. If you are a wheelchair-user and have had problems purchasing tickets to Red Rocks, specifically to the front row, please contact us at info@creeclaw.org. Red Rocks, owned and operated by the City of Denver, is a unique Colorado venue carved into a mountain. The only accessible seats at Red Rocks are in the front row or at the very top and back of the theater (Row 70). In fact, of the 9,525 seats at Red Rocks, only 78 seats are accessible to wheelchair users — 40 seats short of what is required by the regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). According to the suit, despite the limited numbers of accessible seats available, Red Rocks and its contractors routinely engage in practices that further decrease the number of seats available for wheelchair users. For example, Red Rocks does little to ensure that tickets for accessible seats are sold or given to people who actually need accessible seating. What’s more, when people who do not need accessible seating end up in the front row and those using wheelchairs ask to be seated in the accessible section,...

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...

Department of Justice finds UC Berkeley must provide accessible online content.

In October 2014, CREEC, on behalf of the National Association of the Deaf, filed an administrative complaint with the Department of Justice (Department) against the University of California at Berkeley (Berkeley) based on alleged violations of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act through its failure to provide captioning of online courses and other educational content.  On August 30, 2016 the Department presented its findings and conclusions. The investigation addressed Berkeley’s YouTube channel, iTunes U, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) on the edX learning platform (UC BerkeleyX).  The Department conducted a wide-ranging review of the university’s online content. The Department reviewed MOOCs through the UC BerkeleyX platform and determined that some videos were not captioned, documents were not formatted for those who use screen readers, and assorted other issues.  Upon a sampling of the YouTube platforms, the Department found a number of barriers to access, including for example automatically generated captions that were inaccurate and incomplete, did not provide non-visual description of the content, or were not contrasted properly for those with visual impairments.  Finally, the Department reviewed a sampling of Berkeley’s iTunes U platform and found that none of the videos reviewed were closed captioned, and none provided an alternative format to the visual information contained into the videos. The Department concluded that Berkeley has violated accessibility requirements.  Specifically, the Department found that Berkeley “is in violation of title II because significant portions of its online content are not provided in an accessible manner when necessary to ensure effective communication with individuals with hearing, vision or manual disabilities.   In addition, Berkeley’s administrative methods have not ensured that individuals...

The National Association of the Deaf and Hulu Reach Agreement on Captioning

Hulu will provide the captioning option to all subscribers, improving the entertainment experience for deaf and hard of hearing people. BERKELEY, CA – September 6, 2016 Hulu, LLC (Hulu) and the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), the nation’s premier civil rights organization of, by, and for deaf and hard of hearing individuals, represented by Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF), and Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC), entered into a settlement agreement for Hulu to provide 100 percent closed captions of its full-length English and Spanish content by September 2017. The move by Hulu to caption its extensive library of offerings will build upon Hulu’s commitment to offering a seamless viewing experience and more choice to all subscribers. Over the past few years, Hulu has built its reputation as an industry leader in digital closed captions. As a strong supporter and early adopter of digital closed captioning, Hulu continually strives to improve the quality of its captions and captions publishing systems. The new option will provide captioning access to movies and television shows that are streamed online for consumers, including the 48 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the United States. Under the agreement, Hulu will ensure that deaf and hard of hearing subscribers receive equal and meaningful access to all content offered through the streaming service. The agreement also continues the work of the NAD, DREDF, and CREEC to ensure streaming entertainment providers are making closed captions available on their video content. Hulu is a premiere streaming television destination that offers a variety of current hit TV shows, movies and premium original content...
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