In 2009 Florida attorney Tom Ross represented the plaintiff in a lawsuit involving drainage problems. Ross was blind, due to sepsis that developed six years before after minor surgery.
His sightlessness should not have posed a problem. Documents used in U.S. courts are required to be electronically scanned in a way that allows a visually impaired person to access them through common screen-reading technology. However, many of the documents Ross needed for his case were static-form PDFs that could not be read that way, impairing his ability to represent his client.
Despite Ross’ repeated complaints, the judge and the clerk of the local circuit court refused to make the documents accessible to him.
Fortunately, Ross knew his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and complained to the U.S. Department of Justice.
In July 2014, the Justice Department reached a settlement with the court to ensure it would provide individuals with disabilities with any document in the court record in an accessible format upon request, and the court’s website and electronic case-filing system would be fully accessible to individuals with disabilities, including the blind.
As it celebrates its 25th anniversary, the ADA continues to play an important role in outlawing all discrimination based on physical or mental disability in employment and ensuring access to buildings and public and private transportation.