Press Release: U.S. Supreme Court Hears Appeal for Deaf Texans’ Equal Access

ASL translation is also available at https://youtu.be/BKSekFPCM2M

PRESS RELEASE: June 30, 2016
U.S. Supreme Court Will Hear Appeal for Equal Access for Texans Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Dallas, TX – In a recent order, the United States Supreme Court agreed to review an important case concerning the rights of those with hearing disabilities. The Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP), with pro bono attorneys Olga Kobzar of Scott, Douglass & McConnico and Joe Sanders of Sanders Bajwa LLP, supported Deaf Action Center (DAC) consumers and community members in filing a suit against the Texas Education Agency (TEA) for failure to provide interpreters and other accommodations in state-mandated driver education classes.

“I am grateful that this case is being heard by the U.S. Supreme court to help us determine the course of action that is needed to ensure that publicly funded programs are accessible to deaf and hard of hearing individuals. My initial goal was to sit down with the TEA and work out a viable solution to make drivers education accessible to deaf drivers. Instead, the agency forced my consumers to pursue legal action.” said Heather Bise-Hughes, now Executive Director of Deaf Action Center. TEA already regulates the curriculum and other aspects of private driving schools, yet historically they have not ensured that those schools provided effective communication for deaf drivers.

DAC immediately recognized when SB 1317 passed in 2010 that deaf and hard of hearing individuals would encounter more difficulties in obtaining driver’s licenses. In the past, these individuals, whose first language is American Sign Language or sign language, had to wait until they were 18 before they could take a driving test to obtain a license because driver education is not accessible in the DFW area. After the bill’s passage, they needed to wait until age 25.

DAC initially reached out to TEA for open dialogue about proactively remedying this issue. Instead of working toward a solution with DAC, TEA simply encouraged DAC to file a complaint with the Department of Justice. Since TEA refused to budge on its position, in May of 2011 Ms. Heather Bise-Hughes of DAC reached out to TCRP on behalf of the plaintiffs.

“Our agency has always been committed to proactively finding solutions to ensure that discrimination, systematic oppression, and barriers are remedied through education and open dialogue. We are thankful that the plaintiffs and all parties involved were able to seek a remedy in the judicial system because this is truly a pervasive issue for so many people who are deaf and hard of hearing,” Ms. Bise-Hughes said.

The case, Ivy v. Morath, has far-reaching implications for people with disabilities, as the Supreme Court decision will clarify when states may be held responsible for discrimination against the disabled when public programs are contracted out to private companies.

DAC is an organization that strongly believes its mission so to ensure advancement through education, economic security and good health. For 37 years, DAC has empowered their community members to become agents of change for themselves and their peers.

Press inquiries should be directed to media@dactexas.org

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