Blind Intelligence Analyst Sues FBI and Department of Justice
Lawsuit Says FBI Technology is Inaccessible
Washington, DC (November 19, 2019): Joe Orozco, a blind intelligence analyst with the Federal Bureau of Investigation since 2012, is suing the FBI and the United States Department of Justice for violating his civil rights under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended. The lawsuit alleges that technology Mr. Orozco is required to use in his job, some of which is proprietary, is inaccessible to him and to other blind employees, and that the FBI has offered no alternative means for him to access the information, data, and services available through this technology.
Like many other blind people, Mr. Orozco uses screen reader technology, which converts digital information into synthesized speech and uses keystrokes to execute many functions, to read and interact with computer software, Internet and intranet websites, and mobile apps. When not properly coded, however, these technologies can present barriers so that screen readers cannot interpret them or access their functions. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires the FBI, like other federal agencies, to ensure that the information technology it develops, procures, maintains, or uses allows all federal employees, with or without disabilities, to have access to, and use of, information and data. The law’s implementing regulations contain specific guidelines for creating and procuring accessible technology. Mr. Orozco’s lawsuit, brought with the assistance of the National Federation of the Blind, alleges that the FBI and Justice Department have failed to follow or deliberately ignored these guidelines.
“It is nothing short of shameful that two of our nation’s top law enforcement agencies are flouting a federal civil rights law and failing to value the contributions of Mr. Orozco and other blind people who are helping to protect all Americans,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “America’s civil rights organization of the blind is proud to stand up for the right of blind people to play an equal role in our nation’s security.”
Mr. Orozco is represented by Timothy Elder and Albert Elia of the TRE Legal Practice.