PRACTICE AREAS

California Disability Rights Center challenges discrimination in private business, housing, government services, transportation and employment.

Discrimination by Businesses
Discrimination In Housing
Discrimination by State and Local Government Activities
Discrimination in Transportation
Discrimination in Employment
Special Education Law Claims for Individuals with Disabilities (ages 3 through 22)
Higher Education Law Claims
Veteran's Administrative Law Claims
Social Security Disability Claims

Discrimination by Businesses

Title III covers businesses that are public accommodations and commercial facilities. Public accommodations are private entities who own, lease, lease to, or operate facilities such as restaurants, retail stores, hotels, movie theaters, private schools, convention centers, doctors' offices, homeless shelters, transportation depots, zoos, funeral homes, day care centers, and recreation facilities including sports stadiums and fitness clubs.

Public accommodations must comply with basic nondiscrimination requirements that prohibit exclusion, segregation, and unequal treatment. Additionally, public accommodations must remove barriers in existing buildings where it is easy to do so without much difficulty or expense, given the public accommodation's resources.

Title III of the ADA was passed so that people who have disabilities can get into businesses and other places open to the general public. Under Title III, people with disabilities should be able to get the same services and programs that are offered to the general public.

Public accommodations are places where the general public can go. This includes places such as:

  • hotels, motels, inns
  • restaurants, bars
  • movie theaters, theaters, concert halls
  • stadiums, auditoriums, convention centers, lecture halls
  • bakeries, grocery stores, hardware stores, shopping centers, laundromats, drycleaners
  • banks, barber shops, beauty shops, travel services, shoe repair stores, funeral parlors, gas stations
  • pharmacies, insurance offices, accountant’s offices, lawyer’s offices, doctor’s offices
  • terminals, depots
  • museums, libraries, galleries
  • zoos, parks, amusement parks, nursery, elementary, secondary, undergraduate or postgraduate
  • private schools
  • day care centers, senior citizen centers, homeless shelters, food banks, adoption agencies
  • gymnasiums, health spas, bowling alleys, golf courses

Discrimination In Housing

The Fair Housing Act requires owners of housing facilities to afford people with disabilities equal housing opportunities. For example, a landlord with a "no pets" policy may be required to grant an exception to this rule and allow an individual who is blind to keep a guide dog in the residence. The Fair Housing Act also requires landlords to allow tenants with disabilities to make reasonable access-related modifications to their private living space, as well as to common use spaces. The Act further requires that new multifamily housing with four or more units be designed and built to allow access for persons with disabilities. This includes accessible common use areas, doors that are wide enough for wheelchairs, kitchens and bathrooms that allow a person using a wheelchair to maneuver, and other adaptable features within the units.

Discrimination by State and Local Government Activities

Title II covers all activities of State and local governments. Title II requires that State and local governments give people with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from all of their programs, services, and activities (e.g. public education, employment, transportation, recreation, health care, social services, courts, voting, and town meetings).

State and local governments are required to follow specific architectural standards in the new construction and alteration of their buildings. They also must relocate programs or otherwise provide access in inaccessible older buildings, and communicate effectively with people who have hearing, vision, or speech disabilities. Public entities are not required to take actions that would result in undue financial and administrative burdens. They are required to make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures where necessary to avoid discrimination, unless they can demonstrate that doing so would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program, or activity being provided.

Discrimination may include, among other things:

  • Public buildings that are inaccessible to people with disabilities.
  • Public and publicly funded programs that do not provide accessible communication for people who are deaf or blind.
  • Government agencies that refuse to provide reasonable accommodations in state laws, regulations, policies or procedures.
  • Medical practices that take Medicaid or Medicare but refuse to provide sign language interpreters or other accommodations.

Discrimination in Transportation

The transportation provisions of title II cover public transportation services, such as city buses and public rail transit (e.g. subways, commuter rails, Amtrak). Public transportation authorities may not discriminate against people with disabilities in the provision of their services. They must comply with requirements for accessibility in newly purchased vehicles, make good faith efforts to purchase or lease accessible used buses, remanufacture buses in an accessible manner, and, unless it would result in an undue burden, provide paratransit where they operate fixed-route bus or rail systems.

Discrimination may include, among other things:

  • Fixed route bus systems with insufficient or malfunctioning wheelchair lifts.
  • Paratransit systems with a pattern of excessively late pick-ups or no-shows.
  • Private transportation systems or businesses that fail to offer accessible or equivalent service. If a private business offers transportation service -- for example, a hotel or mall shuttle service -- it is required to be accessible or to provide equivalent service.

Discrimination in Employment

Title I requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide qualified individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from the full range of employment-related opportunities available to others. For example, it prohibits discrimination in recruitment, hiring, promotions, training, pay, social activities, and other privileges of employment. It restricts questions that can be asked about an applicant's disability before a job offer is made, and it requires that employers make reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities, unless it results in undue hardship.

Discrimination may include, among other things:

  • Limiting or classifying a job applicant or employee in an adverse way.
  • Denying employment opportunities to people who truly qualify, or not making reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of disabled employees.
  • Not advancing employees with disabilities in the business.
  • Not providing needed accommodations in training.

This page describes various common types of discrimination. If you don't find your particular problem addressed on one of these pages -- or if you would like to skip the verbiage and get in touch -- feel free to contact us directly.

Special Education Law Claims for Individuals with Disabilities (ages 3 through 22)

The IEP Process
State and federal law require schools to develop Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for children with certain disabilities, including learning disabilities. However, school authorities often deny the existence or effect of a learning disability on a child's education.

Even when the school authorities agree on the existence and nature of a learning disability, they may disagree with parents on the content of the IEP or on how to implement its terms.

Your Due Process Rights
If your child is denied eligibility for special education, or if you are dissatisfied with the results of an IEP meeting, you may file a state or federal administrative complaint or request a due process hearing. If your child already has an IEP, but the school is not fully implementing the IEP, is not responsive to your child's learning disability or is failing to effectively meeting your child's needs, you may request an IEP meeting or initiate an adversarial proceeding. However, these processes are complicated and involve strict timelines.

We can help you enforce your child's right to a properly formulated and implemented education plan. We know the IEP process requirements and are experienced at obtaining special education eligibility, revising an existing IEP, ensuring full implementation of the IEP and securing subsequent amendments to your plan when required.

If you are not satisfied with the results of the IEP meeting, we will work with the school through the IEP process in an attempt to reach an amicable resolution. However, if this is not possible, we will consider filing a compliance complaint with the Office of Civil Rights or the California Department of Education. We may also request a due process hearing before the special education division of the California Office of Administrative Hearings.

If the administrative approach is not successful, we have the experience and the skill to advocate your interests effectively in both state and federal court.

Special education laws give children with disabilities and their parents important rights. Specifically, the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the California Education Code gives families of special education children the right to:

  • Have their child assessed or tested to determine special education eligibility and needs
  • Inspect and review school records relating to their child
  • Attend an annual "individualized education program" (IEP) meeting and develop a written IEP plan with representatives of the local school district, and
  • Resolve disputes with the school district through an impartial administrative and legal process

Higher Education Law Claims

Students with disabilities frequently continue their education in postsecondary schools, including vocational and career schools, two- and four- year colleges, and universities. Although the IDEA no longer applies past high school, eligible individuals with disabilities attending higher education programs are still protected by Section 504, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

These laws mandate that students with disabilities may not be excluded from participation in, or be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination by any institution which is subject to the ADA.

Discrimination includes failure to provide reasonable academic adjustments or accommodations including class notes, private rooms for exams, extended time on exams, extending the amount of time allowed to complete a degree, substitution of degree requirements, and access to the campus facilities.

We assist students and their parents with the following special education matters:

  • Expulsions and expulsion appeals
  • Expulsion of a special needs student
  • Suspensions
  • Behavior contracts
  • Involuntary transfers
  • Assessment issues
  • Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings and plans
  • Related services such as occupational, speech, and other therapies
  • Private school placement issues
  • 504/accommodation plans
  • Restoring parent access to campus once a parent is excluded
  • Sexual harassment issues at school
  • Discrimination based on age, race, national origin, sexual orientation, and other improper bases
  • Protection of students from bullying or targeting
  • School transfer issues
  • GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) admission
  • Issues with personnel, such as teachers, coaches, campus police and others.
  • Student records access and correction of records
  • Attendance and truancy issues (School Attendance Review Board)
  • Graduation concerns
  • Other problems in the school setting.

Veteran's Administrative Law Claims

Disability benefits are available to veterans and their families for injuries or illnesses suffered while on active duty in the armed forces, regardless if they occured in combat or not. To get these veteran benefits you must make a claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Department of Veterans Affairs will then decide whether or not to give you the benefits and how much to give you.

Denial of Your Claim
If you disagree with the Department of Veterans Affairs' decision, either because they denied your claim completely or because they awarded you less than you feel is appropriate, you can appeal their ruling. To do this, you must file an appeal with the Department of Veterans Affairs. You are allowed to have representation at this hearing. In fact, most people do have a representative go to the hearing with them.

The Appeals Process
The first step to appealing the decision is to write a Notice of Disagreement (NOD). This is a written statement which says that, first, you disagree with the decision and, second, you are appealing it. The Department of Veterans Affairs will then mail you a form that you must fill out and return. This form is called the VA Form 9.

After you've filed the NOD and VA form 9, you will eventually have a "personal hearing" with the Board of Veterans Affairs. This board will hear your argument and decide what to do with your veteran benefits claim.

Once the board has made their decision, they will mail you a letter stating their ruling and their reasons for it.

Denial of Your Appeal
If your appeal is denied, you can make another appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. This court is entirely independent and separate from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Appealing to the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims is very difficult and complicated. If you chose to make this appeal, you should strongly consider hiring an attorney.

Do I Need an Attorney for My Veterans Benefits Problem?
Making a Veterans Administration claim or appeal with the Department of Veterans Affairs can be very complicated. A lawyer can help you better understand exactly what benefits you are entitled to. If necessary, an attorney can help you with filing a claim or appealing a decision.

Social Security Disability Claims

Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits are designed to replace income lost due to a serious and long-term medical condition, which prevents you from continuing to earn money from work. In order to qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD / SSI) benefits, the condition that prevents you from working must be expected to result in death or last for more than one year. If you are expected to recover from your condition in less than one year, you will not be eligible for benefits. In addition, not only must your condition prevent you from doing the work you did before you became ill or injured, but it must also prevent you from doing other work that exists in the national economy. If you develop a condition or suffer an injury that prevents you from working, Social Security Disability (SSD / SSI) benefits can be an absolute necessity.

When you are found to be disabled under Social Security Regulations, benefits are paid under one of two programs or both. If you have sufficient earnings over the ten years prior to becoming disabled, then you will be paid through the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits program. If you do not have sufficient earnings to qualify for SSDI benefits, then you may be able to receive benefits under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. This is a need-based program for individuals who are disabled. You have to demonstrate the additional non-medical eligibility for SSI benefits. This is similar to demonstrating eligibility for welfare or other forms of aid. In some cases an individual will be eligible for SSDI benefits but their benefit payment will be low enough to be eligible for some additional payments under the SSI program.

The issue of disability or the inability to perform full time work is the same for both programs. A condition, injury, or illness that prevents you from working can be physical or mental. Disability can also be established with a combination of mental and physical conditions.

Whether you are getting ready to file an initial application or you have already applied, been denied, and seek to appeal the denial, working with an experienced Social Security Disability (SSD / SSI) attorney can greatly increase your chances for a successful claim or appeal.