Roadblock Removed from Driver’s Ed

Settlement Means St. Cloud’s High School Students Who are Deaf Will Get Interpreters for Classroom and Behind-the-Wheel Training Heather Breitbach, […]

Settlement Means St. Cloud’s High School Students Who are Deaf Will Get Interpreters for Classroom and Behind-the-Wheel Training

Heather Breitbach, Amelia Boos, Ashley Antonelli, Craig Roering and Charles Schumacher are all high school students in St. Cloud who are at the age when they want to start driving a car. They are also deaf. When they called private driver’s education schools in the St. Cloud area to sign up for classroom instruction and behind-the-wheel training, they asked the schools to provide a sign language interpreter so that they could fully participate in classes. All of the schools refused to do this. The students and their parents promptly contacted the Minnesota Disability Law Center (MDLC) for help, which turned out to be the best step they could have taken.

Attorneys from MDLC told the students and parents that the schools were clearly violating the Minnesota Human Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act by refusing to provide an interpreter for classes. Both laws require private businesses to provide interpreters when necessary to make their programs fully available to deaf customers. MDLC filed a lawsuit against the schools on behalf of the students; the schools then agreed to settle the case and to provide interpreters for these particular students and for other deaf students who will take driver’s education in the future. The schools will not only provide qualified interpreters for classroom and behind-the-wheel training without charge to the students, but will also notify all customers in promotional brochures and notices posted in schools that interpreters are available.

The Benefits

These students will not only be able to get driver’s education and their licenses, but also take advantage of lower insurance rates because they took driver’s ed. Driving makes it easier to be connected to friends and social events, and to have access to jobs. This settlement puts all Minnesota schools on notice that they must provide interpreters for students who are deaf. These St. Cloud students and their parents can be proud that the results of the case they took to MDLC will benefit thousands of deaf children and adults across the state. This is a victory for the whole state.

Postscript from Boos

“Good news—We passed!

“I want you to know I took my Driver’s Test today and I passed. I was so shocked and surprised. I can finally be independent like I want to be. Again, thanks with the Driver’s Ed issue. You’ve been a great and a wonderful help. Both of you.” —Amelia.

Reprinted with permission from MDLC Advocate, 12/06.

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