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Making It All Real: Externship Experience at CREEC

“Having the chance to extern at CREEC put the sensationalized world of docudrama crime and the legal system in a new light for me,” says Sophia Peterson Swarthmore College ‘23, “It made it all real, made the people real. And it also made me better understand the systemic nature of the problems as well as the many ways different people are fighting hard to address the problems.”

two smiling college students. One with long brown hair pulled back from her face and wearing glasses. the other with short black hair and standing with his hands in his coat pocketsFor one week this January, CREEC had the honor of hosting two students from Swarthmore who were participating in the college’s Extern Program. This relatively short January externship experience has a job-shadowing focus. “CREEC has participated in this program since 2017,” says Co-executive Director Amy Robertson and Swarthmore alumna ’83, “and one of the best things about it is the multi-faceted exposure students get to various careers.” CREEC was fortunate to host Marième Diop, Swarthmore ’18, during an extended externship in 2017, and even more fortunate when she returned as a paralegal after graduation.

Here at CREEC we try to offer as many different opportunities as possible to our externs, providing both breadth and depth to the experience. This year externs Sophia Peterson ‘23 and Shaurya Bhaskar ’22 participated in myriad facets of the civil rights legal and advocacy world including, attending an Emotional Support Animal Stakeholder Meeting relating to pending legislation at which Amy Robertson contributed information about ADA considerations;  a day at Denver’s Federal Courthouse where they spoke with Magistrate Judge Neureiter and saw several court proceedings including charging, sentencing and some One man and four women standing together. Pictured are CREECs two January externs, attorney Gail Johnson, Co-executive Director, Amy Robertson, and paraleagal, Marieme Diopcivil cases; saw Boulder civil rights and criminal defense attorney Gail Johnson in action questioning witnesses at a post-trial conviction hearing and then met with Gail and her associates to discuss the hearing and their careers; got some hands-on experience with IDAP Director Liz Jordan, reviewing recently received FOIA documents for information that may be helpful in an ongoing case; and learned from Liz and Co-executive Director Tim Fox about the details of the Fraihat v ICE case including discussing the original filing, ICE’s motion to dismiss, and CREEC and co-counsel’s upcoming response to that motion. They also spent time with CREEC’s Director of Development and Communications, Julie Yates, learning about fundraising and nonprofit management. It was truly a busy week!

Shaurya Bhaskar ’22 says of his time at CREEC,“It opened my eyes to worlds I had before known very little about and has forever changed the way I view my surroundings. One small example, I never before paid attention to accessibility features of a sidewalk. Now I see almost nothing else when I walk the city streets. I feel grateful for my experience at CREEC and for the new way of seeing and thinking it has offered to me. I hope to utilize these experiences wherever I find myself in the future.”

All four Swarthmore affiliates are pictured. The two January 2020 externs, Marieme Diop and Amy Robertson. They are holding the CREEC banner in front of them.

Please consider a gift to CREEC today!

Donor support allows CREEC to provide extern experiences to today’s students and tomorrow’s change makers.

Welcome Pilar!

We are excited to announce the opening of CREEC’s Los Angeles office and the appointment of Pilar Gonzalez Morales as our new Senior Staff Attorney!

smailing woman of hispanic descent, brown eyes and long brown wavy hair, wearing a white blousePilar focuses on civil rights issues at the intersection of disability and immigration rights and comes to CREEC with a wealth of experience. Prior to joining CREEC, Pilar worked at Disability Rights California where she represented children and adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities as well as people with disabilities held in immigration detention. Pilar strongly advocates for the use of an intersectional framework within the disability rights movement to ensure that people of color, LGBTQI, immigrants and other often underserved communities benefit from and lead the fight for the civil rights of all people with disabilities. She also worked for four years at Arias and Munoz (currently Dentons Munoz) in Costa Rica where she enjoyed many outdoor activities and was part of the Litigation and Mediation team. Pilar says about her new position, “I’m incredibly pleased to be joining CREEC because of its commitment to enforcing civil rights laws across the nation, including for some of the most underserved communities. CREEC’s work at the intersection of disability and immigration issues is not only innovative, it also ensures that the disability rights community reflects the needs of all people with disabilities across the country.”

Pilar has a B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley and a J.D. from Duke University. Outside of work Pilar spends a great deal of time hanging out with her three nephews, watching futbol, and reading.

We are thrilled to have Pilar as part of the team and are confident that her specific talents, expertise, and passion for civil rights and equity are just what CREEC needs at this time.

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.

image of talking bubbles behind prison barsLarimer 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 County in its refusal to make accommodations, and required the Cropps to prove that the existing policy – the non-contact booth – was “wholly ineffective,” rather than requiring the County to prove it was equally effective. This decision is inconsistent with the ADA.

Judge Carlos Lucero published a thorough and well-reasoned dissenting opinion, observing that “[b]ased on the information about Mr. Cropp’s disability that Mrs. Cropp provided, harm to Mr. Cropp’s ADA … rights without accommodation was not just ‘substantially likely,’ it was virtually certain.”*

The Cropps have petitioned the Tenth Circuit to review the case with all eleven active judges on that court weighing in. Today, CREEC along with 17 other public interest organizations** filed an amicus brief supporting that full-court review. As we told the Court in our brief,

Many of the Amici were founded by, are staffed by, represent, and/or provide services to individuals with communications disabilities: people who are deaf, blind, or nonspeaking, or have intellectual disabilities or mental illness. Amici thus have both deep expertise in the interpretation and application of the Americans with Disabilities Act’s guarantee of effective communication, and a justifiable concern that the majority’s decision here may undermine that guarantee. Amici urge that the right to effective communication will be secured only through en banc review and adoption of Judge Lucero’s well-reasoned dissent.

CREEC believes the Cropps have a guaranteed right to the equal and effective communication they reasonably requested in 2013 and are outraged by the district court’s and Tenth Circuit’s unjust interpretation of the law. We wholeheartedly support the Cropps’ long, brave fight to stand up for this right in the belief that those who come after them deserve better treatment than they received six years ago.

You can read the amicus brief here.

Would you like to support CREEC’s work? Please give a contribution to CREEC today!

Cropp v. Larimer Cty., Colo., 941 F.3d 1237, 1243 (10th Cir. 2019) (Lucero, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part).

** AdvocacyDenver; American Civil Liberties Union; American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado; The Arc of the United States; Autistic Self Advocacy Network; Brooklyn Law School’s Disability and Civil Rights Clinic; Center for Public Representation; Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition; CommunicationFIRST; Disability Law Colorado; Disability Rights Advocates; Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund; Equip for Equality; Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of Deaf Communities; National Association of the Deaf; National Disability Rights Network; and National Federation of the Blind.

 

Increasing Accessibility City by City – Curb Ramps

Millions of Americans with mobility disabilities regularly use sidewalks to travel from home to work, school, the store, performance venues, sports stadiums, to visit family, or to access community gathering spaces. And yet, the corners of many city sidewalks across our country remain inaccessible, denying an entire group of people the right to move safely and freely from place to place.

CREEC’s Accessibility Project has taken action to improve curb ramps in a number of cities across the U.S. and has plans to address even more missing or inaccessible curb ramps in the coming years, making sure that city curb ramp programs comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (RA) as well as any similar state and local laws.  In addition to ensuring that people with mobility disabilities can move freely about their communities, accessible curb ramps benefit others, including blind people, senior citizens, and people pushing strollers or pulling suitcases. Accessibility is a win-win for cities, for people with disabilities, and for people without disabilities.  Check out this video about installation activities in Portland, Oregon.

Despite the ADA’s nearly 30-year history, curb ramp accessibility issues abound across the country.  Common barriers include sidewalk corners with missing ramps; non-noncompliant ramp slope, surfaces or widths; and failure by cities to appropriately plan for remediation and installation of curb ramps.  These barriers prevent people with disabilities from moving freely about cities where they live, work, or visit and can make navigating a city dangerous by, for example, leaving people with disabilities with no choice but to travel in the street.

Once CREEC has identified compliance issues with a city’s curb ramps, CREEC (often together with co-counsel) represents named claimants and a class of disabled people regarding these issues.  Key to ensuring a city’s compliance with accessibility requirements is the willingness of the claimants to share their personal stories of encounters with missing and inaccessible curb ramps, along with their persistence to see the case through until all remedies are implemented. It is only with such determined and passionate advocates that CREEC is able to pursue these cases to successful resolution.

Generally, our clients are able to reach a settlement agreement with a city and enter a consent decree, making the agreement enforceable by a court. The decrees require cities to install and remediate thousands of ADA compliant curb ramps over multi-year periods. CREEC then stays involved with each city to monitor compliance with the agreement. While specific monitoring activities vary from city to city, common factors include reviewing data to ensure that the annual number of agreed upon installations/remediations is being met and that each ramp complies with all ADA requirements or fully meets the narrow exception to full compliance.  In addition, we review whether a city’s curb ramp request system is working as agreed.  As part of this process, we dialogue with cities about any unanticipated problems that may arise and work together to find solutions which are both creative and conMartie Lafferty, Director of the Accessibility Project, pictured here with the colleagues at the Colorado Springs Curb Ramp Training Center sistent with the agreement. CREEC is currently monitoring agreements entered by the following cities: Colorado Springs, CO, Denver, CO, Portland, OR, and Seattle, WA, and we’re   investigating ramp accessibility issues in others. We anticipate that more agreements and monitoring will be coming soon!

This month CREEC’s Accessibility Project Director Martie Lafferty was pleased to visit Colorado Springs, meet with the enthusiastic city staff responsible for implementing the curb ramp program, and tour their unique curb ramp training facility. See photo. This outdoor facility contains several ramps, some compliant and some purposely noncompliant.  These ramps give inspectors the opportunity to learn more about the ADA’s requirements and to test their assessment skills in a controlled environment.

CREEC Receives Two-Year Grant from the Ford Foundation

Ford Foundation logo. Image of ball composed of many multi-colored circles next to the organization's name

Grant Will Support Work of CREEC’s Immigration Detention Accountability Project (IDAP)

The Ford Foundation has awarded CREEC a $150,000 grant, distributed over a two-year time period to support IDAP’s work. Established in 2018 CREEC’s Immigration Detention Accountability Project (IDAP) believes that current immigration detention practices are inherently constitutionally suspect and inappropriate for the vast majority of non-citizens awaiting resolution of their immigration status. As long as detention continues to be sanctioned by the courts and Congress, IDAP will fight to ensure that people in ICE custody are held in constitutionally adequate conditions, receive constitutionally adequate medical and mental health care, and are not discriminated against on the basis of disability. Recent IDAP work toward this end includes filing a systemic class action lawsuit, Fraihat v. ICE – challenging ICE’s failure to ensure adequate conditions related to medical, mental health, and disability; successfully challenging conditions at a federal prison in Victorville, CA; representation of individual detained immigrants; providing assistance to other immigration advocates through presentations, workshops, and educational materials on the rights of detained immigrants with disabilities.

Elizabeth Jordan, Director of the Immigration Detention Accountability Project, states, “The generous grant we received from the Ford Foundation will help IDAP maximize our impact by reaching as many people in ICE’s jails and prisons with medical, mental health, and disability needs as possible. We are grateful to the Ford Foundation for their support of CREEC while we fight to ensure that the civil and human rights of all people are met.”

The Ford Foundation invests in institutions, ideas, and individuals to fight the drivers of inequality in our society. Identifying seven interconnected areas – Civic Engagement and Government, Creativity and Free Expression, Future of Work(ers), Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice, Just Cities and Regions, Natural Resources and Climate Change, Technology and Society – the Ford Foundation offers grants in each with the belief that these combined efforts will effectively challenge inequality.

National Association of the Deaf Announces Landmark Settlement with Harvard to Improve Online Accessibility

Settlement Includes Requirements Beyond Harvard’s New Accessibility Policies, Including Captions for Live Events, Third-Party Platforms and Department-Sponsored Student Groups

Harvard Agrees to Enter Consent Decree, Ensuring Court Enforcement of Settlement

BOSTON—The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) announced today a landmark settlement with Harvard University that institutes a series of new guidelines to make the university’s website and online resources accessible for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. The settlement represents the most comprehensive set of online accessibility requirements in higher education and ensures for the first time that Harvard will provide high-quality captioning services for online content. The settlement expands upon Harvard’s new digital accessibility policy, which was announced in May. Harvard must provide captions for all online resources, including school-wide events that are live-streamed, content from department sponsored student organizations and any new university-created audio or video hosted by third-party platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo and SoundCloud. 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.

This settlement was reached four years after this litigation began in 2015, when it was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Massachusetts as a class action lawsuit. The lawsuit was prompted by the recognition that, notwithstanding the description of Harvard’s online resources as available to “learners throughout the world,” many of its videos and audio recordings lacked captions or used inaccurate captions. Harvard had no published policies in place to ensure these learning tools were accessible to people who are deaf and hard of hearing. In the United States alone, approximately 50 million people are considered deaf or hard of hearing.

Through the litigation, Harvard filed two motions to dismiss the case. In response to each, the court ruled that federal laws prohibiting disability discrimination covered Harvard’s online content. After these rulings were issued, Harvard announced its new digital accessibility policy and several months later the parties reached a settlement.

The individual plaintiffs in this class action lawsuit, C. Wayne Dore, Christy Smith and Lee Nettles, were also represented by Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, the Disability Law Center, the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, and the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center.

“As Harvard learned through this lawsuit, universities and colleges are on notice that all aspects of their campus including their websites must be accessible to everyone. Captioning video content is a basic form of access that opens up academic learning to not only deaf and hard of hearing people but the world. The National Association of the Deaf asks all who develop video content for the Internet to ensure access through quality captioning,” said Howard A. Rosenblum, Chief Executive Officer, National Association of the Deaf.

“Open and equal access to evolving technology is essential if the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act is to be realized. By committing to caption content on a vast array of research and learning, today that dream came a step closer as one of the top universities in the world opens their digital doors to millions of deaf and hard of hearing people,” said Arlene B. Mayerson, Directing Attorney at the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund.

“This settlement is a milestone for civil rights enforcement in the new millennium, as it ensures the wealth of knowledge and academic research residing on the Harvard University websites will be accessible to people who are deaf and hard of hearing everywhere,” said Joseph M. Sellers who heads the civil rights practice at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll.

“This settlement means greater access for current and future deaf and hard of hearing learners to the vast universe of Harvard’s online content. Ensuring accessibility is not something that can be considered a bonus—it is a fundamental right that everyone deserves. We’re pleased that Harvard will finally be treating all learners with the same standard of respect,” said Amy F. Robertson, Co-Executive Director of the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center.

“The significant expansion of opportunities for deaf and hard of hearing people to participate in Harvard’s community of lifelong learners realized by this settlement is an important step toward inclusion for all individuals with disabilities and invaluable to the intellectual community of our Commonwealth and nation as a whole,” said Marlene Sallo, Executive Director of the Disability Law Center.

The Scale and Scope of the Agreement

Harvard previously announced it will begin captioning new content created on or after December 1 on its website. Yet the settlement requires Harvard to take several new and additional steps, including captioning existing content posted on or after January 2019 within two years. For any content not already captioned, upon receiving a request, Harvard must caption the content within five business days. Furthermore, the university now must provide industry-standard live captioning for school-wide events that are live-streamed, while captioning new content of Department Sponsored Student Organizations, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and new university-created content on the official channel hosted by third-party platforms, including YouTube, Vimeo and SoundCloud. Harvard must also implement a public process to manage these requests. Harvard 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 and any changes made to these policies, among other details.

The Consent Decree is available for review online.

Recent Press Coverage includes:

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

 

 

Tim Fox Writes for the Civil Rights Insider

banner logo for the Civil Rights Insider with the name of the publication written across clouds and the top portion of the American flag

Co-Executive Director, Tim Fox, was invited by the Federal Bar Association’s Civil Rights Law Section to write an article for their newsletter, the Civil Rights Insider regarding the Fraihat v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Case No. 5:19-cv-01546 (C.D. Cal). On August 19, CREEC and others filed this nationwide class-action lawsuit challenging abusive and horrific conditions of confinement at approximately 158 immigration detention centers across the country. Fraihat alleges violations of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and also alleges that the Department of Homeland Security and ICE have a long-standing pattern and practice of failing to adequately monitor and oversee immigration detention centers.

The Federal Bar Association is dedicated to keeping its members informed about current federal issues. One avenue for this is through their quarterly newsletter, the Civil Rights Insider.

You can read Tim’s article, “Civil Rights Groups Charge that ICE Disregards Immigrants’ Medical, Mental Health Needs and Ignores Discrimination Against Immigrants with Disabilities” in-full on page four of the Fall 2019 issue of the Civil Rights Insider.

To read more about Fraihat v ICE, visit our case page.

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.

Broncos stadium shown with newly installed open captioning screen in center of imageAs 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 conceViolent Femmes playing on an elevated stage. FLOW interpreter pictured below interpreting the concertrt 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 patrons.  Through CREEC’s Fast Advocacy for Communication program, we wrote a letter to Planet Bluegrass and followed up with a conversation with the venue president, explaining the ADA’s requirements for interpretation and communication. Result:  interpreters provided!

“I was very glad that Planet Bluegrass provided interpreters, though there were still some ‘growing pains,’” said Kirstin . It took 20 minutes and the intervention of a bandmember’s wife to get a taped-off area so the interpreter would not be lost in the crowd, and the venue did not provide lighting for that area. “The interpreters themselves were excellent, as they were provided by the experienced folks at FLOW Interpreting,” she added. That company and concert interpreting were highlighted in a recent Colorado Public Radio story.

“The Violent Femmes are very Kirsten is backstage with bandmembersimportant to me, as they were the last sound I ever heard. I was listening to their music as I went into the surgery that would take my hearing,” Kirstin explained. “I’ve seen them perform many times since then.” She was very excited to be asked backstage after the concert as “friends of the band.”

“We’ve really enjoyed working with Kirstin and hope other deaf and hard of hearing people will reach out and use CREEC’s Fast Advocacy for Communication program when they are denied interpreters or captioning,” CREEC’s Co-Executive Director, Amy Robertson, said.

Help CREEC Continue to Help Others:

CREEC’s work is only possible with your support! Please consider a donation to help CREEC continue to challenge discrimination.

  • Give online
  • Text-to-Donate: Text “SupportCREEC” to 44321
  • Mail a check to: CREEC | 104 Broadway Suite 400 | Denver, CO 80203
  • Call us at: 303.757.7901

Thank You!

 

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