Equal Access to Communication

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Legal Aid's Minnesota Disability Law Center (MDLC) is a vital resource for those whose rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Minnesota Human Rights Act are in peril. Upholding equal access to communication is one of the hallmarks of MDLC's work. In a recent case, an MDLC client was denied access to routine bank transactions because his credit union changed its policies about accepting IP relay calls for deaf customers, making his access far more difficult than that of hearing customers.

"It's a pleasure to represent a client who is willing to speak out for their rights," said staff attorney Rick MacPherson, counsel on the case. "One person's willingness to enforce the law can bring about equal access for others who are deaf to the services and benefits everyone else enjoys." Read the full article in Attorney at Law magazine.

Minnesotans With Disabilities File Federal Class Action Lawsuit Seeking To Live In Their Own Homes

Last week, a group of people with disabilities filed a class action lawsuit in federal district court in Minneapolis on behalf of people with disabilities who are being denied access to homes of their choice. The lawsuit claims that the Minnesota Department of Human Services allows very few people to access individualized housing options and refuses to help hundreds of people currently forced to remain in corporately owned and operated group homes. They experience isolation, lack of control, and an overall helplessness about their lives. The plaintiffs are asking for help to find and move into homes they choose with services they control.

Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid’s Minnesota Disability Law Center is representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit with co-counsel Anthony Ostlund Baer & Louwagie P.A. Legal Aid attorney Sean Burke stated, “The system Minnesota has relied on has not evolved since the early 1980’s. The State has promised people with disabilities the chance to be integrated into their communities, but for many it only offers housing in group homes. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires more than that.”

Lead Counsel for plaintiffs, Justin Perl, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid’s Litigation Director, added, “Our clients just want to live where they want and with whom they want, just like people without disabilities. Unfortunately, the system Minnesota has created for them has needlessly segregated them from the rest of society. It is simply unacceptable, and a violation of the ADA, to foreclose our clients from access to housing options that exist in the community.”

Dionne Swanson, a plaintiff in the suit, remarked “I’m 43 years old and I want to have the freedom to make my own choices, basic stuff - like what time I go to bed.”

Read more in the Star Tribune.

St. Paul Complies with ADA Standards Thanks to Minnesota Disability Law Center

Thanks to the efforts of the Minnesota Disability Law Center (MDLC), and a possible lawsuit, the Saint Paul city council voted last month to bring curb ramps up to federal ADA standards.  Approximately 230 ramps need to be retrofitted, having been passed over when the city embarked on a major street repair project beginning in 2013.

Steven Schmidt, staff attorney with MDLC, said clients became concerned when they noticed that as the work progressed on the St. Paul streets, “the city was not doing any work to the curb ramps.”  Read the full Pioneer Press article.