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November 14, 2002


From: DRC and Washington Lawyers’ Committee (Press Release)
Nov. 14, 2002

In one of the first disability rights cases to be tried in the District of Columbia, a deaf patient who was denied vision services by an optical care provider was awarded $19,119 in damages by a jury in a trial yesterday before U.S. District Court Judge James Robertson.

Garth Alexander, who is deaf, had asked his wife Donna, who is hearing, to call and make an appointment for him with a United Optical vision care services office. When his wife called, she was informed that her husband could not be seen because deaf patients take too long. She asked that this refusal to treat be put in writing so that she could appeal to her insurer to allow a visit to a different optical care provider. The couple obtained the signed written refusal. The Alexanders and the Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington (DRC) filed a complaint under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the D.C. Human Rights Act seeking injunctive relief and damages.

The DRC has worked since 1992 to achieve greater compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws that provide protection against discrimination based on disability in employment, access to facilities, programs and services, transportation, and communications.

DRC Executive Director Linda Royster noted, “The jury award and the court’s determination that the DRC had standing to bring the case are tremendous victories for the community of people with disabilities in the District of Columbia.”

Counsel for the plaintiffs are the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, and Neal Barkus and Brad Lennie of the Washington law firm of Hunton & Williams. The case is Alexander and the Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington, et al. v. United Optical.

“We are extremely gratified by this award and most appreciative of the pro bono support of Hunton & Williams,” said Elaine Gardner, Director of the Disability Rights Project at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee.

The Washington Lawyers’ Committee was established in 1968 to provide pro bono legal services to address discrimination and poverty in the Washington, D.C. community. The Committee’s work focuses on six project areas: equal employment opportunity, fair housing, public education, public accommodations, disability rights, and immigrant and refugee rights. For more information about the Committee, see


Contacts: Elaine Gardner, Washington Lawyers’ Committee
(202) 319-1000, ext. 131

Linda L. Royster, DRC
(202) 234-7550, ext. 5;