Indianapolis (August 6, 2019): Reviewing and selecting insurance and benefits are important processes that should be personal and private. For Christopher and Sarah Meyer, siblings who are blind, the print-only benefits communications they received from the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA), its Division of Family Resources (DFR), and their contractors not only forced them to rely on other people to intercept and read their private information, but caused them to lose their benefits. In a lawsuit filed August 6 in federal district court in Indianapolis, Christopher and Sarah joined with the National Federation of the Blind to
challenge the agencies’ failure to communicate effectively with blind Hoosiers. They have asked FSSA, DFR, and their contractors to send notices and communications in Braille or electronically, rather than standard print, so that they can use text-to-speech screen readers to access their critical benefits information. Additionally, they notified state officials that the Internet portal that beneficiaries use to select benefits and update information is not accessible to the blind.
“State and federal agencies that administer government benefits and programs have been required to communicate effectively and accessibly with all current and potential beneficiaries for decades,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “Today, technology makes effective communication easier than ever, but agencies throughout the nation are still failing to meet this legal and moral obligation. The National Federation of the Blind is committed to fighting for blind people like Christopher and Sarah Meyer when state agencies flout the law.”
Plaintiffs are represented by Indiana Disability Rights (IDR), Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP, and the Law Office of Jana Eisinger, PLLC. According to Tom Crishon, Managing Attorney at IDR, “Indiana agencies are required to offer communications with blind people that are as effective as communications with others. The plaintiffs are simply asking DFR to provide correspondence regarding their benefits in a format that is accessible and necessary to afford them an equal opportunity to participate in the program. Despite repeated attempts to work with DFR to achieve a workable solution, the agency continually fails to effectively communicate with blind Hoosiers.”