Access By Blind Individuals To Food Stamps and Medicaid
A team of Drinker Biddle & Reath lawyers from the Washington and Philadelphia offices is partnering with a team of lawyers from the National Center for Law and Economic Justice to represent a class of blind and seriously visually impaired individuals. The class is suing the New York City Human Resources Administration, the New York State Office of Temporary Disability Assistance, the New York State Department of Health, and the Commissioners of these agencies for being denied their right to receive Medicaid and Food Stamps benefits information in formats that are accessible to them. See Rafferty v. Doar, No. 13-cv-1410 (S.D.N.Y.).
At present, the responsible agencies only provide Medicaid and Food Stamps materials in standard written formats, and have refused requests to provide these materials in formats such as braille, large print, or audio-recording that people with serious visual impairments can access without assistance. In doing so, these agencies have imposed significant hardships upon some of our most vulnerable citizens and have jeopardized their ability to receive federal benefits to which they are entitled and depend upon to survive. The team from Drinker and the NCLEJ is seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to compel these agencies to provide Medicaid and Food Stamps materials in formats accessible to those with serious visual impairments, as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act and myriad federal, state, and local laws and regulations.
On August 7, 2013, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York entered a stipulation and order, which certified a litigation class consisting of: “All New York City residents who: (1) have visual impairments that substantially limit the major life activity of seeing or otherwise have a visual disability as ‘disability’ is defined under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; (2) are current or future applicants for or recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (‘SNAP’) and/or Medical Assistance (‘Medicaid’) benefits; and (3) need written materials in alternative formats for effective communication regarding SNAP and Medicaid.”
The parties are engaged in extensive settlement negotiations and are working diligently toward resolving the issues raised by the class action complaint. The Court has referred the case to the magistrate judge to facilitate negotiations toward a settlement agreement that Plaintiffs hope will be achieved in the near future. These negotiations have already benefited several members of the class, and we are optimistic that a settlement can be reached with the City and State that will ensure all blind and visually impaired residents of New York City have access to information about Medicaid and Food Stamps in formats that are accessible to them.