Class Action

Do You Have the Makings of a Class Action Lawsuit?

 The following information is provided by Disability Rights Advocates. If you would like to contact Disability Rights Advocates about a possible class action, please email investigations@dralegal.org or call 510-665-8644.

Document problems with access

  • Help your organization’s members make and document formal complaints.
  • Before you refer an individual for legal representation, help them collect information about and document access problems.

Look for patterns

Individuals and organizations may be represented in class action cases—this means that a few people and organizations represent a whole class of people who are experiencing the same problems. These types of cases make it possible to get far-reaching changes that affect a large number of people, without the high costs of a lawsuit for each individual’s case. However, the individuals must be experiencing similar access barriers with the same system.

Your organization is likely in a good position to identify patterns of barriers to access. For example, two or three members seek your help with making complaints at the same hospital or hospitals run by the same company. This is a great opportunity to consider a class lawsuit! Notify a disability rights attorney that this seems to be a trend and put the attorney in contact with the people who experienced the problems.

Access barriers may include:

  • ineffective communication such as unqualified interpreters or problems with VRI;
  • delay in providing an interpreter;
  • inaccessible telephones;
  • issues with paging systems; or
  • no closed captioning available

How Individuals Can Reinforce a Complaint about Deaf Accessibility

When deaf individuals experience access barriers, there are a number of actions that they can take to promote their rights and to support a potential legal claim. Please note that although the actions listed below may help support a legal claim, taking these steps does not necessarily mean that an attorney will be able to represent any given individual.

  1. Document the issue

Make a written record of the access barrier. This may take a number of forms such as formal written complaints or personal notes. It is best to make written notes as close as possible to the time that you experience a problem, that way you remember more. If you are taking notes about something, make sure you write down the date you are writing the note.

  1. Make a formal complaint

If you like, you can submit a formal complaint in writing to the inaccessible service provider. In making a written complaint, include (a) the date of the complaint, (b) the name, title, and contact information of the individual to whom you made the complaint, and (c) the details of the complaint. Document each response you receive and any further communication.

When filing a complaint in writing by U.S. Mail you should pay to make it return receipt requested so you have evidence that it was received.

  1. Record specific details about the access barrier

Whether or not you make a formal complaint, you should record detailed information about the access barrier. It is best to write down everything you remember as close to the experience as possible so that the details are fresh in your mind. Include details such as:

  • Where and when (date & time) you experienced the access barrier
  • What the problem or barrier was
  • The names of all individuals involved
  • The name(s) of anyone else who saw what happened
  • Whether the issue has happened before
  • Anything that you did in response to the issue

Effective Communication issues in Healthcare:

These are some steps that you can take to support your rights at healthcare facilities:

  • Ask your healthcare provider to record your communication-related needs in your medical chart or record.
  • For scheduled appointments, ask for your preferred communication method when you make the appointment even if the person you are talking to does not bring it up.
  • For unscheduled visits, ask for your preferred communication method right when you arrive and make a note of the time. Also note the time(s) when any sign interpreters or other communication methods are provided (even if it is not the one that you asked for).
  • Qualified Interpretation: Interpreters must be qualified. According to the ADA regulations, that means they must be “able to interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially, both receptively and expressively, using any necessary specialized vocabulary.”
  • If an interpreter is not qualified:
  1. DO: Tell the healthcare provider that the interpreter is not qualified
  2. DO NOT: Tell the healthcare provider you do not like the interpreter
  3. Record the name of an unqualified interpreter and why he or she is not qualified, for instance: too slow, fingerspelling, doesn’t know medical terminology, difficult to understand, etc.

Video Remote Interpretation (VRI)

If a healthcare provider chooses to use VRI, they have to make sure that:

  • The video image is high quality
  • There are not lags or irregular pauses in communication
  • The image is not choppy, blurry, or grainy
  • The image is sharp and large enough to display the interpreter’s face, arms, hands, and fingers, and the participating individual’s face, arms, hands and fingers, regardless of his or her body position
  • Voices are audible and clear
  • Users and other involved individuals are adequately trained so that they may quickly and efficiently set up and operate the VRI

If the VRI does not meet one of the requirements above:

  1. DO: Tell the healthcare provider that the VRI is not providing effective communication and why. For example, “the VRI screen is blurry, so I do not understand everything that my doctor is saying about ______”). Write this information down for yourself as well.
  2. DO NOT: Just say you don’t like VRI
  3. Ask for the name of the VRI company and the interpreter and write this information down.
  4. If VRI is effective for a while then stops working, write down how long it worked and when the problem happened.