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Discrimination Lawsuit Filed Against D.C. Housing Authority for Illegally Denying Sign Language Interpreters and Basic Services to People with Disabilities

Relman, Dane & Colfax, together with the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of deaf and hard-of-hearing residents of Washington, D.C. and the nonprofit organization Deaf-REACH, challenging the District of Columbia Housing Authority’s failure to provide sign language interpreters.  Plaintiffs Jacqueline Young and Latheda Wilson rely on American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate.  The complaint charges that the Housing Authority has engaged in this pattern of discrimination for years; time and again, interpreters were promised but not actually provided, and appointments were repeatedly cancelled for lack of any means of communication. 

The complaint alleges that the D.C. Housing Authority has repeatedly and routinely denied individuals with hearing impairments sign language interpreters and access to basic services, in direct violation of federal laws requiring equal access and mandating provision of sign language interpreters essential to effective communication.

The complaint describes how Young and Wilson were forced to communicate with Housing Authority staff through scribbled notes and gestures, told to have their children or other family members communicate for them, and expected to sign forms affecting their housing without the opportunity to learn their contents.  The complaint further contends that the Housing Authority refused to provide ASL interpreters to Young and Wilson, participants in the Housing Authority’s voucher program, for instructional meetings where critical information regarding the rules, regulations, and requirements for the program were explained. Without access to the critical information provided to non-disabled recipients of rental assistance, Young and Wilson were left in constant fear of losing their rental assistance based on inadvertent non-compliance with rules and regulations about which they were never informed. 

The case, Jacqueline Young, et al. v. District of Columbia Housing Authority, was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and is being litigated by Jennifer Klar, Michael Allen, Megan Cacace, and Ryan Downer of Relman, Dane & Colfax, along with Chinh Le, Julie Becker, and Rachel Rintelmann of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia.

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