Fighting for the Rights of Deaf Immigrants in Detention

“I was so sad. So afraid I’d never see my son again. I had no idea that they [US Customs and Border Patrol] would separate us, especially in the case of my son who is deaf and who can’t communicate easily,” says an asylum-seeking mom from Guatemala who prefers to remain anonymous for safety reasons. She goes on to say that CREEC’s Liz Jordan “helped me communicate with my son, and closely followed what was happening to me. Without CREEC’s help I would not have been able to figure out what was happening with my son and I would not have been able to fight my case.” Separated from his mother soon after crossing the border in April 2018, a 17-yr old deaf asylum seeker was transported alone hundreds of miles away to an Office of Refugee Resettlement shelter in Arizona – without interpretation services or accommodations of any kind. His only means of communication? Drawing pictures. Meanwhile, the boy’s mother was sent to the ICE detention center in Aurora, Colorado where she asked for a video call with her son. Her requests were ignored. She says, “I felt so alone when I first got to Aurora. I didn’t know what I had to do. I met with a pro bono attorney and explained everything that had happened with me and my son and that he was deaf. They referred my case to CREEC. I remember my first visit from CREEC. I felt so much more supported. I felt myself come back to life a bit.” “It was a long fight involving multiple requests for a video call, consistent...

Accessibility Project Update: Rights of Disabled Inmates

CREEC is pleased to announce a new resource called Inmates with Disabilities: Know Your Rights.  This resource provides an overview of the rights of disabled inmates and gives examples of potential violations. Please share it with anyone who may benefit from it. We greatly appreciate the work of our summer intern, Jordan Staley, on this project and wish him all the best as he begins his third year at Denver Law. A more detailed discussion of the rights of disabled inmates follows below. Applicable Laws Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)[1] and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504)[2] protect people, including inmates of jails and prisons, from disability discrimination. This means jails and prisons[3] must not discriminate against inmates because of their disability and must give disabled inmates equal access to the programs, services, and benefits of the facility. So, for example, a jail cannot provide classes only in a building that is physically inaccessible to wheelchair users. Similarly, prisons cannot segregate blind inmates by automatically housing all of them in the medical unit.  Individuals with a relationship or association with a disabled person are also protected by these federal laws. So, jails and prisons also cannot discriminate against family members and friends of disabled inmates or disabled family members and friends of nondisabled inmates. Changes Needed Due to Disability Sometimes disabled inmates need the facility to make a change to allow them to fully participate in its programs, services, or benefits. The ADA and Section 504 require prisons and jails to make such changes (referred to as accommodations or modifications) as long as...

Deaf Inmate Access to Phone Calls

Connecting with family and friends outside prison can be difficult and expensive for all inmates.  However, once they’ve navigated the prison’s red tape and are able to make a call, hearing inmates can directly communicate with their contacts outside the prison. That is not the case for deaf inmates.  Many jails and prisons across the country offer only outdated and ineffective technology to people who are deaf.  Along with partners including the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), CREEC is working to make sure deaf inmates have effective communication in prisons across the country.  This includes access to effective phone calls, including videophones and CapTel (captioned phones). For deaf people whose primary language is American Sign Language (ASL) or another sign language, videophones are necessary for effective phone communication.  Videophones (VPs) allow deaf inmates to communicate in sign language with those outside prison, including friends, family, and attorneys.  When a deaf inmate uses VP to call a deaf person outside prison, there is direct communication in sign language.  When a deaf inmate uses VP to call a hearing person outside prison, the deaf inmate can communicate in sign language through a relay operator who is a sign language interpreter. Although deaf inmates need VP for effective communication, most prisons only provide teletypewriters (TTY), an outdated technology that requires the parties to type back and forth in English (generally the second language for most deaf people). As one expert explained, “consider the prisoner outrage that would result from a . . . policy . . . require[ing] all prisoners to communicate. . . only by using fax machines.  Communication via...

Pepsi Center to Provide Open Captioning for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Sports Fans

Pepsi Center to Provide Open Captioning for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Sports Fans Class action settlement provides for captioning on LED boards at non-concert events. DENVER January 25, 2018 – Kirstin Kurlander and Kroenke Arena Company are pleased to announce that the Pepsi Center will start providing open captioning for Deaf and Hard of Hearing sports fans beginning this fall. The Pepsi Center — a roughly 18,000-seat arena in downtown Denver — is home to the Colorado Avalanche, Denver Nuggets, and Colorado Mammoth.  Starting with the first preseason Avalanche game in October of this year, the Pepsi Center will caption all of the information spoken over the public address system on LED ribbon boards mounted on the front of the third level at the four corners of the arena. Ms. Kurlander, a deaf woman and Mammoth season-ticket holder, filed a class action lawsuit against the company that owns and operates the Pepsi Center in 2016, after informally requesting captions at the arena.  The Pepsi Center began providing captions on handheld devices — smartphones or tablets — in late 2016, and has been working with Ms. Kurlander and her attorneys at the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC) on a solution that provides open captioning that is generally visible throughout the arena.  The parties reached agreement at the end of last year and Judge Wiley Y. Daniel granted preliminary approval on January 9, 2018. “I am very pleased that the Pepsi Center will provide captioning and I look forward to attending lacrosse and other games there with full access to the information broadcast in the arena,” said Ms....

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...

Settlement Underscores Importance of Hiring Certified Sign Language Interpreters

A&A Languages, a Centennial interpretation and translation agency, reached an agreement relating to the use of certified sign language interpreters. A&A and the plaintiffs — two Deaf women and the husband of one — assert that the agreement serves to clarify the benefits and importance of utilizing sign language interpreters who have been certified by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID). This is important in communications involving health care and human service resources. A&A affirmed that it will continue its practice of hiring and assigning only sign language interpreters who are certified by the RID. The Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC) urges other translation agencies who provide interpretation services to use RID-certified interpreters. The Colorado Consumer Protection Act specifies that it is a “deceptive trade practice” to claim to be a “sign language interpreter” if the person is not in fact RID certified. RID certification is important for those who sign and those who do not and who require accurate and prompt communications with one another, for example, in crucial medical or social services interactions. The promptness, accuracy and skill possessed by a certified sign language interpreter can promote efficient and effective communications involving complex and difficult communications in a variety of settings. Certified interpreters are required to demonstrate skills necessary to discuss complex matters. They also are required to adhere to standards of professionalism and confidentiality designed to ensure that all parties involved, regardless of their signing ability or identity, receive effective communication in medical, social services, and business contexts. A&A Languages, founded in 2002, is one of the leading providers of interpretation and...