Friday, March 4, 2016

Jury: Montgomery Co. failed to reasonably accommodate blind worker

Montgomery County violated federal law by failing to provide a blind woman computer software that would have allowed her to continue to work as an information specialist in a county call center, a jury ruled Friday.
When the county decided to consolidate the Department of Health and Human Services call center, where Yasmin Reyazuddin worked, into the county’s 311 call center, officials refused to integrate the screen access software Reyazuddin had been using, which allowed her to access computer programs that converted information on a computer screen into synthesized speech or Braille.
Instead, the county denied her a job in the 311 center and relegated her to a lower-level position where she lacked meaningful work, said Joe Espo, an attorney for Reyazuddin.
“The verdict demonstrates that simply saying, ‘We got new software, and it’s difficult to make it usable,’ is not an adequate response to individuals with disabilities in the workforce,” said Espo, a partner with Brown, Goldstein & Levy LLP in Baltimore. “Employers should think about accessibility when they’re purchasing software and when they’re configuring it for use.”
In Reyazuddin’s case, she was at first given no work assignments once she was relegated to the lower-level position, according to her complaint. She requested additional tasks but still was not given more than four hours of work in each eight-hour day, her lawsuit claimed.
“Giving someone a paycheck is not a reasonable accommodation,” Espo said. “It’s not just a paycheck – it’s the opportunity to do meaningful work and have the same advancement and promotional opportunities as others in similar positions do. It’s very hard to demonstrate competence and achievement and to present yourself for advancement if what you’re doing is a bunch of make-work and supervisors don’t want you around. It’s hard to excel at doing nothing.”

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