Blind Siblings Sue State Agencies, Say Rights Were Violated

(INDIANAPOLIS) – The Indiana Department of Family and Social Services Administration has been sued in federal court.

Siblings Christopher and Sarah Meyer and the National Federation of the Blind have filed a lawsuit saying the Division of Family Resources and FSSA won’t provide equal and effective communication to blind Hoosiers who want to access their benefit information.

Title II of the American’s with Disabilities Act requires that people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to access programs, services or activities of a public entity. Tom Crishon, the managing attorney with Indiana Disability Rights, said the state is in violation of this.

“They have a federal obligation to follow and provide civil rights to these individuals,” Crishon said, “which includes providing effective communication that is tailored to that specific individual’s needs.”

Through the lawsuit they’re hoping to compel the state and its contractors to communicate in Braille or use screen-to-text speech screen readers.

Crishon said the state agencies send information to clients in regular print or through a portal of FSSA’s website, neither of which is accessible to people who are blind.

The lawsuit said that both siblings have lost access to critical benefits by missing filing deadlines because of getting materials in a regular print formation instead of a medium they could use.

The Meyer siblings both receive Medicaid and SNAP, and when they asked for communications in a format they could access, they had to go through a third party who could read the materials to them, which violates their right to privacy, according the the lawsuit.

The lawsuit said the state’s website also has drop down menus and other features that make it impossible for blind people to use to get information or apply for programs.

The siblings are hoping to receive communication in a format they can use. They also want FSSA to change its internet portal so that blind people can use it.