McCullough v. California Department of Developmental Services
On April 30, 2020, Disability Rights Advocates and Disability Rights California filed a class action lawsuit against the California Department of Developmental Services (DDS) on behalf of deaf individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). The lawsuit charges the state agency with discrimination against deaf people who depend on regional center programs and services funded and administered by DDS. DDS’s data indicates that there are likely more than 5,000 deaf consumers who rely on its program.
On October 2, 2020, a federal judge denied DDS’s motion to dismiss the case. In asking to dismiss the lawsuit, DDS argued that it was not responsible for any discrimination by local regional centers. U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston disagreed with DDS and said that “DDS is charged with ensuring ‘the regional centers operate in compliance with federal and state law and regulation,’ including by ‘tak[ing] all necessary actions’ to secure compliance.”
DDS has failed to address systematic discrimination against deaf people with I/DD who have been denied the accommodations they need for effective communication, such as interpreters, staff fluent in American Sign Language (ASL), or communication devices. Without effective communication, deaf people with I/DD are isolated from social interaction and denied the opportunity to communicate and meaningfully engage in the community. Many deaf regional center clients have lived for years in complete isolation, unable to express their frustration and unhappiness, lonely and desperately wanting someone with whom they can communicate.
The state agency’s lack of policies, procedures, or practices regarding accessibility for deaf people with I/DD inhibits them from communicating effectively and denies them the opportunity to benefit from the Department’s services, programs, and opportunities that are afforded to people who can hear.
This lawsuit aims to ensure that the Department of Developmental Services provides equal access to programs, services, activities, and opportunities, in accordance with longstanding federal civil rights laws.