Blind New York State Employee Unable to Perform Job Due to Inaccessible Software
National Federation of the Blind Assisting In Litigation Against State Crime Victims Board
New York, New York (November 13, 2008): Dawn Whitfield, a blind woman who has worked for the New York State Crime Victims Board for over twenty years, filed suit today in federal court because she is no longer able to perform the functions of her job. The State Crime Victims Board has purchased and implemented software that cannot be used by a blind person and is therefore in violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a federal law which requires that entities receiving federal funds must have information technology in place that is accessible to blind employees. Because of the new software, which is manufactured by a company called Emerging Soft, Ms. Whitfield has been unable to perform the functions of her job since May of 2008. The National Federation of the Blind, the nation’s oldest and largest organization of blind people, is assisting in the litigation.
Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “Like all workers in the twenty-first century, blind people must have access to information technology in order to do their jobs effectively. Without access to information technology in the workplace, Ms. Whitfield does not have meaningful access to her workplace and is therefore experiencing discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act. The National Federation of the Blind will do everything we can to assist her in seeking a remedy for this deplorable situation.”
Carl Jacobsen, president of the National Federation of the Blind of New York, said: “The National Federation of the Blind of New York will not tolerate a situation in which hard-working blind state employees are relegated to second-class status because the agencies they work for refuse to follow the law and purchase software that is accessible to them. We are committed to ensuring that Dawn Whitfield and all blind New Yorkers employed by this state have full and equal access to information technology in the workplace.”
Dawn Whitfield said: “It is extremely frustrating that I cannot do my job effectively because my agency did not take my needs into consideration when purchasing new computer software, even though I made it clear to my supervisors that I had specific needs as a blind employee and the agency was well aware of the potential problems with this new software. I hope that this situation can be resolved quickly so that I can go back to assisting crime victims in the state of New York with their claims for compensation as I have for over twenty years. I enjoy my work but lately it has become a nightmare; I look forward to being a productive employee of this agency once again.”