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TCRP Files Legal Action to Expand Access to Driver’s Education for People with Hearing Disabilities

TEXAS CIVIL RIGHTS PROJECT

Michael
Tigar Human Rights Center
1405 Montopolis Drive Austin, Texas 78741
(512) 474-5073 (phone) (512) 474-0726 (fax)

Contact: Joseph Berra
512-474-5073

Press Release
August 2, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

TCRP FILES LEGAL ACTION TO EXPAND ACCESS TO DRIVER’S EDUCATION FOR PEOPLE
WITH HEARING DISABILITIES

The Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) filed a lawsuit today in federal court
to expand access to driver’s education for people with disabilities. The
suit was filed in federal court against the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and
ABC Driving School of Austin, Texas. “TEA should know by now what
constitutes effective communication in the educational context, but they
refuse to provide interpreters for people with hearing disabilities,” said
Joseph Berra, attorney for TCRP. “TEA is effectively denying hearing
impaired individuals access to a driver’s license and full participation in
society.”

Under state law, Texans under the age of 25 must take a driver’s education
course from a school licensed and approved by TEA. However, contrary to the
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), TEA has refused to require its
licensed schools to accommodate individuals with hearing disabilities by
providing them with a sign language interpreter. This policy effectively
bars Texans with hearing disabilities under the age of 25 from obtaining a
Texas driver’s license.

The Plaintiff in this suit, age 21, cannot obtain a driver’s license as a
result of TEA’s discriminatory policy. Over the course of a year, she
contacted multiple TEA-licensed schools and was unable to find a single
licensed school that would accommodate her disability as required by the
law. As a result of her inability to obtain a license, she consistently
lacks reliable transportation and has been unable to obtain employment and
unable to continue her college education.

“Under the ADA, TEA cannot contract away its responsibility,” said TCRP
Director Jim Harrington. “TEA needs to require licensed schools to provide
interpreters or create a program of access to driver’s education for people
with hearing disabilities.”

This case was filed by TCRP in conjunction with lawsuits filed across the
state last week in commemoration of the 21st anniversary of the ADA. For 21
years the ADA has ensured fundamental civil rights to people with
disabilities, and these lawsuits seek to make full enjoyment of those rights
a reality.

For more information, please contact Joseph Berra or Trish Kelly at TCRP, at
(512) 474-5073 x108

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