Pro Bono Opportunities with the EVA Team
The Employment, Voting, and Accessibility (EVA) Team handles legal work that is vital to safeguarding the rights of people with disabilities in work environments, and ensuring that employers do not discriminate against them because of disability. Representing clients on employment matters often involves requesting reasonable accommodations under the ADA and ensuring that the client is provided with an equal and fair work environment as well as adequate opportunities for hire and advancement.
This team also helps ensure that people with disabilities have full access to private businesses and government facilities, programs and services, including online services. This includes working to remove architectural barriers and improve mobility, ensuring that necessary aids and services are provided for people with communication disabilities, such as sign language interpreters for people who are deaf or hard of hearing and braille text for people with visual impairments. The EVA team often advocates to modify policies and procedures so that persons with disabilities have equal access and effective communication.
This team also has an advocate who provides voting rights training to people with disabilities, polling site accessibility assessments, and poll worker training. Staff attorneys provide legal assistance in individual voting rights violation cases and systemic litigation projects.
The EVA Team assists persons with disabilities in obtaining and retaining employment, obtaining accommodations at work or college, ensuring effective communication with healthcare providers, and ensuring polling places and election websites are accessible. Clients often need assistance with filing complaints with the Department of Justice (DOJ), Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), and The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), many EVA Team cases resolve at the administrative level or after mediation.
The most common pro bono opportunities in the areas of employment, voting, and accessibility, are:
Department of Justice Effective Communication Complaints
Quite often, persons with hearing impairments are denied access to sign language interpreters and other assistive technology that are necessary for effective communication with key service providers. Many businesses, including doctor’s offices, diagnostic clinics, labs, hospitals, dentist offices, and other medical facilities do not have appropriate policies and procedures in place to provide effective communication for persons with hearing impairments. DRTx utilizes pro bono attorneys to advocate for effective communication for persons with disabilities. This representation typically involves drafting a complaint on behalf of the client to be filed with the Department of Justice (DOJ). These complaints are often referred to and resolved through mediation. Representation by a pro bono attorney during mediation greatly increases the likelihood of a favorable outcome for the client. Pro bono attorneys can elect to draft the complaint only, appear at the mediation only, or both.
Requests for Reasonable Accommodations in Employment
Federal and State laws provide that persons with disabilities can request reasonable accommodations to assist them in places where they work. These accommodations can range from wheelchair ramps and designated parking spaces to special equipment to unrestricted access in the workplace for service animals. Persons with disabilities also have the right to file formal complaints when they are discriminated against by an employer. DRTx has enlisted the assistance of pro bono attorneys to advise clients and assist them in understanding what their rights are with regards to requesting accommodations or filing formal complaints. The pro bono attorney usually interviews the client, gathers any necessary documents to support the request or complaint, and drafts the request or complaint on behalf of the client. Most requests or complaints are resolved at this stage.
Disability Discrimination by Colleges and Universities
Under state and federal law, community colleges and universities are required to provide reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities. This could include providing note-takers, recording devices, sign language interpreters, extended time for testing and screen-reading or voice-recognition software for college computers. If a college discriminates against a student, the school is required to have its own grievance procedure. If the student is dissatisfied with the outcome of the college’s grievance procedures, the student may file a complaint against the college with OCR or DOJ. A pro bono attorney could assist the student in exhausting the college’s grievance procedures to filing an OCR or DOJ complaint against the college.
Disability Rights Texas would be happy to provide training on handling EVA Team cases to any attorneys interested in pro bono representation. Additionally, we provide ongoing support and assistance ranging from technical support to co-counseling depending on the need and desire of the pro bono attorney handling the case.
If you are interested in becoming a DRTx Pro Bono Volunteer Attorney for the EVA team or scheduling a CLE for your office, firm, or corporate law department, please contact Cicely Reid, Pro Bono Coordinator, in one of the following ways: