Making Justice Real

The Official Blog of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia

Landmark Settlement Reached with DCHA for Individuals who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Legal Aid and the law firm of Relman, Dane & Colfax issued a press release today announcing that they have reached a settlement agreement, approved by the federal district court, to resolve a lawsuit filed in May 2013 against the D.C. Housing Authority, which alleged that DCHA failed to provide reasonable accommodations and appropriate interpretation services for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing. Under the settlement, DCHA agreed to adopt a new policy, effective within 60 days, that ensures equal access to housing programs and services for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing. The agreement also requires DCHA to pay $350,000 in monetary relief.

Specifically, the new policy requires that DCHA:

*      provide prominent notices informing individuals of interpretation services for those who are deaf and hard of hearing;
*      work with individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing to determine what auxiliary aids or services are appropriate, as well as the timing, duration, and frequency with which they will be provided;
*      install video remote interpreting services to provide immediate access to sign language interpretation services in a variety of situations including its walk-in hours;
*      train DCHA staff regarding the new policy;
*      track requests for interpretation services to confirm compliance with the policy and determine need and supply; and
*      establish grievance procedures that allow complaints to be directed to informal resolution or a formal adjudication process, as appropriate.

Legal Aid and Relman, Dane & Colfax filed the complaint in this case on behalf of two individuals, Jacqueline Young and Latheda Wilson, and Deaf-REACH, a non-profit organization that serves clients who are deaf and hard of hearing. The complaint alleged that DCHA repeatedly failed or refused to provide sign language interpreters or alternative means of effective communication to make its programs and services accessible to people with disabilities as required by the Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act.

Legal Aid congratulates and thanks its courageous clients for their willingness to stand up and enforce their rights, as well as its co-counsel, Relman, Dane, & Colfax, for making these changes possible. We look forward to working with DCHA as it implements its new policy.

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