Landmark Agreements Establish New Model for Online Accessibility in Higher Education and Business

PRESS RELEASE Settlement with MIT Follows Similar Agreement with Harvard University to Caption Online Content Agreements Represent the Most Comprehensive Set of Online Accessibility Requirements BOSTON—The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) announced today a landmark settlement with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that institutes a series of new guidelines to make the university’s website and online resources accessible for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. The settlement follows a similar agreement with Harvard University in November 2019, which together represent the most comprehensive set of online accessibility requirements in higher education and provide a new model for ensuring worldwide online and digital accessibility in academia and business for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. MIT, one of the most celebrated academic research institutes in the world, has agreed to provide industry standard captioning for publicly-available online content, including video and audio content posted on MIT.edu as well as MIT’s YouTube, Vimeo, and Soundcloud pages, certain live-streaming events and online courses such as Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs), MITx and MIT OpenCourseWare. The terms of the settlement are included within a consent decree, which can be enforced by the court. The court must approve the consent decree before it may become effective. MIT must also implement a public process to manage these requests. MIT is also required to submit reports every six months beginning in June 2020 to NAD and the Disability Law Center with information about the number of requests received, among other details. This settlement was reached four years after this litigation began in 2015, when it was filed in the U.S....

FAC Program Helps Secure Effective Communication for Mr. Sam

Following a stroke, 94-year old Mr. Sam from Mississippi needed some transition time in a rehabilitation center. Imagine his family’s frustration when application after application was rejected…because the rehab facilities were not willing to provide a sign language interpreter for Mr. Sam who is Deaf and uses American Sign Language (ASL). “It was unreal”, said Mr. Sam’s son, Craig Samuels, “we even had a verbal ‘yes’ from one facility only to have that’ yes’ turn into a ‘no’ when they learned that their offer of a whiteboard would not adequately serve my dad’s post-stroke communication needs. It was a nightmare.” And, as the Samuels family learned, their experience isn’t uncommon. Luckily the Samuels family has a network of support that helped them get on the right track and, ultimately, in touch with CREEC. When Mr. Sam went to the Emergency Room after his stroke, he was not initially provided with adequate interpretation. Mr. Sam’s stroke worsened his hearing condition, rendering his hearing aid completely ineffective even for short, simple communications. In addition, the left side of Mr. Sam’s body and his vision were impacted, making simple written whiteboard communication and video ASL interpretation also ineffective. As a result, Mr. Sam could not communicate at all with his health care providers nor they with him without in-person ASL interpretation. A good friend of the Samuels family who is also a Deaf advocate, assured them that Mr. Sam is guaranteed effective communication by law. With his support, they pushed and soon received excellent services for the rest of Mr. Sam’s stay at the hospital. When it was time to take the...

Equal and Effective Communication is Guaranteed by the ADA

CREEC and 17 other civil rights organizations file amicus brief supporting the right to effective communication The day after Christmas, 2013, Stanley Cropp was wrongfully arrested (based on his confused response to police) and taken to the Larimer County Jail. There it was determined he could be released on bond, but would have to sign the legal documents necessary to make that happen. Because he has Alzheimer’s, he did not understand the documents, so his wife, Catherine Cropp, asked to sit with him and explain them. Larimer County said no. Its policy was to require family members to meet with detainees in a “non-contact” booth, separated by a glass partition, and requiring the conversation to take place through a telephone. Mrs. Cropp explained that, based on her experience with Mr. Cropp’s condition, this would not permit him to understand what he needed to sign. The County was adamant: absolutely no accommodation would be made for Mr. Cropp’s disability. This occurred despite the fact that the County knew Mr. Cropp could not understand its complex legal paperwork without assistance, and despite the fact that the County regularly permitted attorneys to meet directly with detainees, no glass partition required. The Cropps challenged Larimer County’s refusal under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which requires public entities such as Larimer County to provide effective communication with disabled people and – crucially – to defer to the requests of such individuals concerning the mode of communication. The Cropps lost before the district court, and that decision was affirmed by the Tenth Circuit last month in a 2-1 decision. The majority incorrectly deferred to the...

Investigation of Communication Problems in Tennessee Prisons

The Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC) and Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) are currently investigating communication barriers for deaf inmates in Tennessee prisons. This includes prisons operated by the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) and by CoreCivic. If you are a deaf inmate in a Tennessee prison and are having communication problems OR know a deaf inmate in a Tennessee prison who is having communication problems, please contact DRT by phone at 1-800-342-1660 or by email at GetHelp@DisabilityRightsTN.org. Examples of communication problems include: No sign language interpreter for communications like: medical appointments classes classification STRONG-R Using other inmates as “interpreters” Grievance information only in written English No videophones Greater access to telephones than videophones No visual fire and emergency alarms No closed captions on TVs These are only examples. This is not a complete list of communication problems that may be occurring. While the current investigation is focused on Tennessee, if you are experiencing these issues in prisons outside of TN or know others who are, please contact CREEC by phone at 303.757.7901 or info@creeclaw.org. Please post the attached notice in a public space and please share this information with deaf inmates and their friends or family members. PDF Version of Public Notice   PDF Version of Public...

Full and Equal Enjoyment for Sports and Music Fans

Client spotlight:  Kirstin Kurlander Garcia Deaf lacrosse fan and CREEC client, Kirstin Kurlander Garcia has been instrumental in bringing open captioning to both the Pepsi Center and Broncos Stadium. Using CREEC’s Fast Advocacy for Communication program, she was also recently able to secure an interpreter for the Violent Femmes concert at Planet Bluegrass. “Our family enjoys professional lacrosse games at both the Pepsi Center and Broncos Stadium, but I wasn’t able to fully enjoy the events without access to the announcements – players, penalties, and all the other things that entertain us between plays,” Kirstin explained. She approached CREEC about the Pepsi Center; we approached the Pepsi Center to discuss the issue, but ultimately resolved the case in Kirstin’s favor through class action litigation. Soon thereafter, Kirstin and CREEC reached out to Broncos Stadium and were able to work with the folks there – without need for litigation – to ensure open captioning. As a result of the collaboration between Kirstin and CREEC’s Accessibility Project, deaf and hard of hearing lacrosse fans – and hockey, basketball, and football fans – can all enjoy access to the same public address content as hearing fans. Also an avid music fan, Kirstin was interested in attending a summer 2019 Violent Femmes concert at Planet Bluegrass. Long before the concert date, Kirstin reached out to Planet Bluegrass to request a sign language interpreter. The venue owners responded with a common misconception:  that it’s up to the individual bands to provide interpreters. In fact, both owners and operators – venues and performers, in this case – are responsible for ensuring effective communication for deaf...

Spreading the Word: Deaf Awareness Day at the Denver Zoo and the DeafNation Expo in Nashville, TN

CREEC recently had the privilege of joining the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community at two marquee events:  Deaf Awareness Day at the Denver Zoo in Colorado and the DeafNation Expo in Nashville, TN. All together more than 2,400 people attended these two signature events. Deaf Awareness Day at the Denver Zoo – September 22, 2019 Kris Shipley of Sprint Accessibility remarked about this year’s day at the Zoo, “Relay Colorado and Sprint Accessibility sponsored and hosted Deaf Awareness Day at the Denver Zoo on September 22, 2019 to support Deaf Awareness Month. It was a smashing hit! There were over 1,000 attendees including all ages of deaf, hard of hearing and hearing guests from the Denver metro area, Colorado Springs and northern Colorado. This was a good way to bring the community together and celebrate Deaf Awareness Month.” Co-Executive Director Amy Robertson represented CREEC at Deaf Awareness Day at the Denver Zoo and reported, “It was great to see old friends and meet new people in the Deaf community.  It also gave us a chance to introduce our Fast Advocacy for Communication (FAC) program, which folks seemed interested in.”  CREEC looks forward to participating in future Deaf Awareness Days. DeafNation Expo Nashville, TN – October 12, 2019 Director of CREEC’s Accessibility Project, Martie Lafferty joined 74 vendors and more than 1,400 participants at Nashville’s DeafNation Expo on Saturday October 12.  Both vendors and participants came from multiple states including TN, KY, IN, GA, NC, AL, and MS.  Martie and a sign language interpreter staffed CREEC’s booth where many participants stopped by to talk and pick up flyers, magnets,...