Knowing your rights is the first step in being the best advocate for yourself! The following information provides an overview of important federal and state laws that ensure equal opportunity for people with disabilities. As an advocacy organization, the National Federation of the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado, played a leading role in the passage of these laws. To find out more about how these laws may apply to you, contact the agencies and organizations listed.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE FREE FROM DISCRIMINATION
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The major federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, including blindness, is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In addition to prohibiting employment discrimination (Title 1) this act also ensures participation in public activities, programs, and transportation (Title II), as well as access to public accommodations (Title III). For specific provisions of the ADA visit the ADA web site or call the ADA Information Line at (800) 514-0301.
For employment discrimination violations under Title I of the ADA you should contact the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission. Charges of discrimination may be filed at any EEOC field office, which are located throughout the 50 states and are listed in most telephone directories under "U.S. Government." For the appropriate EEOC field office in your geographic area, call (800) 669-4000 or visit the EEOC web site.
For Title II violations of the ADA that deal with access to public activities (such as education, recreation, health care, social services, and voting) contact the U.S. Department of Justice at the address below. To report violations regarding the use of, and access to, public transportation (such as city buses and rail transit), you may file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation.
U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights Section-NYAV
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530
Phone: (800) 514-0301
Office of Civil Rights
Federal Transit Administration
U.S. Department of Transportation
400 Seventh Street, S.W.
Washington, DC 20590
Phone: (888) 446-4511
The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA)
The Colorado Civil Rights Division (CCRD) (https://ccrd.colorado.gov/) works to protect individuals, including Coloradans with disabilities such as blindness, from discrimination in employment, housing and at places of public accommodation through enforcement and outreach consistent with the Colorado Anti-discrimination Act (CADA) and other Colorado civil rights laws, such as the white cane law. CCDR provides information to the public and also investigates complaints of discrimination.
Colorado’s White Cane Law: The Right to Open Access to Public Places and Protections from Discrimination Based on Blindness or Visual Impairment (Civil Rights Law Title 24, Article 34, section 24-34-801)
The White Cane Law is the earliest and still the principle state law that protects people from discrimination based on blindness. The National Federation of the Blind of Colorado led the way in getting the original statute adopted by the Colorado Legislature in 1973. The law prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, and in public accommodations, and ensures access to public facilities, streets, sidewalks, and other public places in the State of Colorado. Elsewhere in state law, provisions of the original Colorado white cane law have been expanded to include other Coloradans with disabilities. Section 42-4-808 requires drivers and other pedestrians to yield to pedestrians with disabilities using mobility devices, such as a white cane or dog guide. Likewise, CRS 24-34-803, Rights of individuals with service animals protects Coloradans with disabilities who use service animals, such as blind persons using dog guides, from discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations, public services, and when using public transportation.
YOUR CHILD HAS THE RIGHT TO A FREE PUBLIC EDUCATION
Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA)
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) is the federal law that guarantees blind and visually impaired students the right to a free and appropriate public education. The law specifies that each student must have an individualized education plan (IEP) and outlines the parents’ rights to be involved in the development of the IEP.
For additional information on IDEA, visit the IDEA website and the Wrights Law website. For additional information on how IDEA is being implemented in the State of Colorado, visit the Colorado State Department of Education website.
Colorado Laws Specific to Blind and Visually Impaired Students
The Braille Literacy Law Exceptional Children’s Educational Act, Colo. Rev. Stat. §22-20-108(4.5) mandates Braille competency testing for teachers and requires a learning media assessment when determining the reading modalities for a visually impaired child. The law states that Braille shall be the literacy medium selected unless the IEP team determines, based on a comprehensive literacy learning media assessment, that instruction in Braille is not appropriate (This was a legislative initiative of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado in 1994.)
For further reading on the Braille literacy issue, see the NFB's article "Braille, Print, or Both?".
Information Technology Access for Individuals who are Blind or Visually Impaired (Colorado HB00-1269)
Standards adopted by the state to insure full and equal access for blind or visually impaired students to adaptive technology systems in education.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REHABILITATION AND TRAINING
Federal Rehabilitation Act
The Rehabilitation Act is the Federal law that provides state vocational rehabilitation, supported employment, independent living, and client assistance programs. It also authorizes training and service grants administered by the Rehabilitation Services Administration.
Federal law guarantees client involvement in every step of the rehabilitation process. Important choices you need to make include: choosing your employment or independent living goal, identifying the services you need, and deciding where you will go to receive those services. You and your counselor together develop an individualized plan for employment or IPE. You have the right to have a copy of the plan in the format of your choice. Your plan can be amended if you need additional services or your employment goal changes. Since no services can be purchased without a signed plan, the better you are prepared when you meet with your counselor, the faster your services can be provided.
All assessments conducted by your rehabilitation agency are free. You may request that an interpreter be provided at all meetings with your counselor.
You have the right to choose a person to accompany and assist you throughout the rehabilitation process. If at any point in the process, you do not agree with a decision made by the counselor, you may attempt to resolve your concerns with the counselor’s supervisor. You may also seek assistance from the client assistance program (CAP) and/or from any other advocate at any time in the rehabilitation process. You always have the right to file a formal appeal and to request formal mediation.
Colorado Rehabilitation Services
The Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation provides support in promoting the employment, economic self-sufficiency and independence of individuals with disabilities. The vocational rehabilitation counselor works with the client to develop an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE). This plan describes the services that will be needed so that the individual can reach his or her employment goal. Services may include adjustment to blindness training such as that provided at the Colorado Center for the Blind.
For additional information on vocational rehabilitation services contact the Administrative Offices:
1575 Sherman St, 4th Floor
Denver, CO 80203
The National Federation of the Blind of Colorado does not provide legal consultation or legal advice. If you are in need of legal assistance please contact an attorney who specializes in disability law.