U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court to hear case of deaf Texans seeking interpreter in state-licensed driver's ed classes

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The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide a case brought by would-be drivers seeking a sign-language interpreter for driver-education classes.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to decide whether a Texas agency had to ensure the classes accommodated the disability. A private company licensed by the state provided the classes. The Austin American-Statesman and Courthouse News Service have coverage.

Texas refuses to give driver’s licenses to people under the age of 25 unless they supply a driver education certificate. The would-be drivers sued the Texas Education Agency for alleged violations of two federal laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.

At issue is whether the Texas Education Agency and the private company had dual obligations to accommodate deaf students, according to the cert petition (PDF).

If Texas’ stance is upheld, “each state agency in the nation could, without running afoul of [federal disability laws], avoid having to provide accommodations for the deaf simply by ‘licensing’ private businesses to administer the component of the state program that requires direct interaction with the public,” the cert petition says.

Services such as food-stamp administration, unemployment benefits and “countless other services” could be outsourced to private licensees without a state obligation to accommodate the disabled, according to the plaintiffs.

“The only way the disabled community could then enforce the ADA would be to sue each licensee individually—an unconscionable result,” the cert petition says.

The case is Ivy v. Morath. The SCOTUSblog case page is here.

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