Disability Rights Project

Matthew K. Handley Project Director
Deepa Goraya Staff Attorney
Amal Mimish Paralegal


Since 1992 after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Disability Rights Project has been litigating cases in the areas of equal access to public accommodations, public entities, transportation providers, and health care providers. The Project has also represented employees and applicants with disabilities who are denied equal access to employment, or denied reasonable accommodations in the workplace. More recently, the project is focusing on equal access to emerging technologies and services for blind individuals who use talking screen readers, particularly in the areas of equal access to online voting registration, web-only businesses, mobile applications, and touchscreen kiosks and tablets associated with public businesses, including medical facilities and gyms. Another area of focus is equal access to transportation services such as Uber and Lyft for wheelchair users.

MH ACB

Project Activities

The Committee’s Disability Rights Project has a very active docket of cases involving claims seeking equal access to transportation services, federal and local government programs, employment, websites and touchscreen kiosks. Significant legal accomplishments include:

  • Government Website Accessibility: American Council of the Blind v. General Services Administration. Representing the American Council of the Blind and a class of individual blind government contractors, the Committee, along with co-counsel Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP, filed a complaint against the General Services Administration (GSA) for failing to make its website, sam.gov, accessible to blind users. This inaccessibility prevented blind federal contractors from registering or renewing their registration independently on sam.gov. On November 10, 2015, the Committee reached a landmark settlement with GSA on behalf of blind federal contractors and the American Council of the Blind.

  • DC Government Programs: Drinker, Biddle & Reath LLP joined the Committee and Disability Rights Advocates in filing a class action complaint in U.S. District Court in D.C. on September 9, 2014 on behalf of United Spinal Association, the DC Center for Independent Living and three DC residents with disabilities challenging the District of Columbia’s poor emergency planning for persons with disabilities.  The lawsuit alleges that the problems that exist range from the District’s failure to publicize any information about accessible emergency shelters, failure to plan for emergency communications to persons who are deaf and blind, failure to put accessible evacuation options in place, and failure to plan for supply chain disruptions for medication and replacement durable medical equipment.

  • Public Accommodations: Equal Rights Center, et al. v. Kohl’s, et al. The law firm of Robbins, Salomon, & Patt LTD joined with the Committee to file a complaint in October 2014 in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois against Kohl’s Corporation and Kohl’s Department Stores, Inc. on behalf of several individuals with disabilities and the Equal Rights Center.  Testing done by the Equal Rights Center revealed that the aisles and other features inside several Kohl’s stores nationwide were inaccessible to people using wheelchairs.  The suit alleges that Kohl’s violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act and applicable state laws.

  • Transportation Services: ACB and Eric Bridges v. DC Taxicab. The law firm of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP (Pillsbury) joined with the Committee to represent the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and Eric Bridges, a blind customer with a service dog who was attempting to hail a taxi, against four DC taxi companies: Yellow Cab, Elite Cab, Grand Cab Company, and Pleasant Taxicab. Cab drivers from all four companies, after seeing the service dog, repeatedly passed him and stopped for a sighted passenger a short distance away, thereby violating Title III of the ADA and the DC Human Rights Act. These incidents were all caught on film by WUSA9, which was filming a documentary on this issue.

  • Equal Employment Opportunity: Van Rossum v. Baltimore County. Attorneys at Kirkland & Ellis LLP, along with the Committee, represent a disabled woman who was forced to take early disability retirement because her employer, The Baltimore County Government’s Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management, refused to accommodate her disability. The complainant suffers from multiple chemical toxicities, which were aggravated by her exposure to toxic mold while working in the Baltimore County Circuit Court building in Towson, MD.  The EEOC issued a letter of determination finding that the complainant was, in fact, discriminated against, but Baltimore County refused to conciliate her claim. On April 4, 2016, Plaintiff defeated a summary judgment motion in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland that sought to dismiss her claim. She will now be able to proceed to trial. In his opinion, U.S. District Court Judge James K. Bredar denied Defendant Baltimore County’s motion for summary judgment, disagreeing with the defendant’s argument that the plaintiff’s receipt of SSDI benefits precluded her from bringing a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

  • Touchscreen Kiosks: Social Security Administration, the Committee, along with Brown, Goldstein & Levy, represent the National Federation of the Blind and its members in a matter involving access to touchscreen check-in kiosks at various Social Security Administration buildings. The kiosks either have no external keyboards near them so that blind persons are not able to access them, do not operate correctly, or have no audio or brailled instructions in place to alert blind individuals on how to operate them. Users must therefore relay private information to a sighted individual who must assist them in entering the information. The Committee and counsel for the NFB have alerted SSA of this issue and met with them in the fall of 2015 to discuss the issue. Kiosks at various locations are currently being tested to determine whether the problem continues to persist.

  • Website and Mobile App Accessibility: On March 22nd, 2016, the Committee filed a class action complaint on behalf of Mika Pyyhkala and Tajuan Farmer against Sweetgreen, Inc. for lack of accessibility of their online ordering portal and mobile application to blind individuals who use talking screen reading software.  The named plaintiffs, who are blind, seek to represent a class of blind customers who were denied the opportunity to order food through Sweetgreen’s website and mobile app.  The lawsuit, Farmer v. Sweetgreen, Inc. (S.D.N.Y.), was filed in the southern District of New York and alleges violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and New York City and state human rights laws.

General Employment Law Sites

Probono.net/dc — join the employment practice area
DiscriminationAttorney.com
Employment Law Case Reports (Clearinghouse)
Government Accountability Project -legal center for government whistleblowers
National Employment Lawyers Association – NELA
National Employee Rights Institute – Workplace Fairness
“Overview of Employment Law (Cornell)”:

Advocacy

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton
–> An article on Congress Woman Eleanor Holmes Norton’s advocacy for workers rights.
D.C. Council Page – Legislation, Contact Info
Elected Officials in DC
ANC Chairpersons
D.C. Government
D.C. Department of Employment Services
D.C. Voter Registration
DCWatch
FOIA Contacts at All Federal Agencies
Labor Market Information – D.C.

Americans With Disabilities Act

ADA Information at the Department of Justice
ADA Technical Assistance Program
Bazelon Center’s ADA Site focus on mental disabilities
Job Accommodation Network
Rights of the Disabled

Child Labor

Child Labor Laws
U.S. DOL Wage & Hour Division Youth Page

D.C. Government Employees

Department of Human Resources
Public Employees Relations Board
Workers’ Compensation
D.C. Public Schools Employees – Human Resources

Discrimination 

D.C. Office of Human Rights
DiscriminationAttorney.com
EEOC Home Page
–>EEOC Poster
–>EEOC Aviso En Español
Employment Discrimination
Federal Employees’ EEO Complaint Processing Information
Filing a Charge
Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices

Equal Pay

Equal Pay Act

Family & Medical Leave (FMLA)

D.C. Office of Human Rights
Department of Labor Info on FMLA
–>Poster
–>Anuncio
National Partnership for Women & Families FMLA Page

Federal Contractors

Davis-Bacon (construction) and Related Acts
–>Davis-Bacon Poster
–>Anuncio
Office of Federal Contract Compliance (U.S. Department of Labor)
The McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act
–>Service Contract Act Poster
–>Anuncio

Federal Employees

EEOC: Basic Information About Federal Discrimination Complaints
Merit Systems Protection Board
Retirement Information: OPM
Unemployment Compensation
U.S. Government Manual – lists all federal agencies and contacts
Workers’ Compensation
Employees’ Compensation Appeals Board

Health Insurance

Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration Home Page

Job Training & Job Search

Women in Apprenticeships and Non-Traditional Occupations
Workforce Investment Act

Law Firms' Labor & Employement Postings

DiscriminationAttorney.com

Miscellaneous Workplace Laws

Employee Polygraph Protection Act (Lie Detector Tests)

License & Property Searches 

District of Columbia
DC License Information

Operating Engineers Search – steam and other operating engineers (building management, building engineers)
Plumber License Search – plumbers and plumbing companies
Professional Engineers & Land Surevyors
Real Estate Agent
Refrigeration & Air Conditioning Search – individuals and companies
D.C. Corporate Information Search – you must register for an account in order to use this service.
D.C. Real Property Ownership Search – search for the owner of a particular piece of property in D.C. Also includes recently assessed values. 

Maryland
Maryland License Search
 – Includes electrician, plumbing, HVACR, home improvement, and out-of-state corporations license search.

Maryland Corporate Information Search
Maryland Real Property Ownership Search (You must know the county. If you are unsure, consult the map and list of Maryland counties in the Wikipedia online encyclopedia, or try all of the following counties which are near to D.C.: Montgomery, Prince Georges, Howard, Anne Arundel, Frederick, Baltimore, Charles and Calvert.) 

Virginia
Virginia Construction Licenses

Virginia Corporation Information Search.
Virginia Real Property Search works on a county by county basis.
If you are unsure, consult the Virginia county map and list of counties and unincorporated cities.
Alexandria, City of
Arlington County
Fairfax County
Loudon County

Pension & Retirement 

U.S. DOL – Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration
Women and Pensions: What Women Need to Know and Do

Safety & Health

OSHA
AFL-CIO Safety and Health
Center to Protect Workers’ Rights – Hazard Alerts
Cornell’s U.S. Workplace Safety and Health Law
Maryland Occupational Safety and Health

Taxes 

D.C. Tax Forms
Tax Help for Low-Income People, Call (800) 829-1040.

Unemployment Compensation

U.S. Unemployment Compensation Law
U.S. Department of Labor UI Page

Unions & Organizing

AFL-CIO Organizing
IGC: LaborNet

Wages & Hours

Maryland Wage and Hour Information
Minimum Wage Laws in the States
U.S. Department of Labor: Wage & Hour Division
–>Overtime
–>Minimum Wage Poster
–>Timesheet Application: An app for employees to independently track the hours they work and determine the wages they are owed/Una aplicación que permite a los empleados capturar independientemente las horas trabajadas y determinar el pago que deben recibir. 

Welfate to Work

D.C. Department of Human Services
U.S. Department of Labor Welfare to Work

Workers' Compensation

AFL-CIO Hurt on the Job
D.C. Workers’ Compensation (private sector)
Maryland Workers’ Compensation Information
U.S. Workers Compensation Law (federal workers – Cornell)

Materiales en Español

Departamento de Trabajo
AFL-CIO en Español
EEOC Aviso (Discriminacion)
FMLA Aviso
Usted Tiene El Derecho A Trabajar
Protección para Empleados Contra Abusos del Examen Poligráfico (Aviso)
Voting & Elections in D.C. – info in Spanish

OSHA en Español

Other Helpful Tools

Reverse Phone Number Lookup – When you know a phone number, this tool may be able to match up a name or address with it.
White Pages – People Search – People S – the Superpages is one of the more up-to-date people searchers on the internet.
Yellow Pages – Superpages for business information.
Zip Code Look Up

Other Useful Links

DC’s Mayor Appointees
Track DC
DC Directory of Agencies and Services
Council of D.C.
China Hot Jobs
Track campaign contributions
Check to see if a lawyer is a member of the DC Bar
DC Freedom of Information Act
Ward Maps
Look up D.C. corporations
Property Search in DC
D.C. Code Online

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