Independent Consultant and The Office of Civil Rights Monitoring Visits:
Justice Research & Advocacy, Inc.
Justice Research & Advocacy, Inc. (JRA) is currently serving as the Independent Consultant for the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) investigated several discrimination complaints against DCF. The complaints alleged that DCF failed to provide necessary auxiliary aids or qualified sign language interpreters to DCF Customers or their Companions who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794, as implemented by 45 C.F.R. Part 84 (Section 504) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. 12131, as implemented by 28 C.F.R. Part 35 (ADA). In 2010, the department and OCR entered into a settlement agreement with DCF. To assist and monitor DCF’s compliance with the terms and conditions of the Plan, the Agreement requires DCF to employ the services of an Independent Consultant who will further ensure that the DCF’s Office of Civil Rights has provisions in place to provide services for those customers and/or companions who are deaf or hard of hearing.
As the Independent Consultant, Dr. Riske-Morris of JRA is responsible conducting two assessments, monitoring DCF’s effort to implement the terms of the Settlement Agreement, provide technical assistance to DCF staff when requested and review and approve any documents, policies and/or procedures created or revised in connection with the provisions of said Settlement Agreement. In performance of these duties, Dr. Riske-Morris will assist DCF in meeting its requirements pursuant to the Settlement Agreement, which include: (1)Assessing DCF’s current ability to provide auxiliary aids and services to deaf and hard-of-hearing Customers or Companions, and identify additional communication resources as necessary; (2) Assisting DCF in creating a monitoring plan to monitor DCF Direct Service Facilities and contract providers to ensure that customers and companions who are deaf or hard-of-hearing are provided with appropriate auxiliary aids and services; (3) Working with the DCF Advisory Committee composed of professionals from the nonprofit and government sectors who work with or on behalf of deaf or hard-of-hearing persons in Florida; (4)Monitoring DCF’s tracking and recording the provision of auxiliary aids and services for deaf and hard-of-hearing Customers or Companions accessing each DCF Direct Service Facility; (5) Evaluating DCF services using Customer Grievance/Feedback Forms; (6) reviewing and approving documents and policies and/or procedures required by the Settlement Agreement.
In addition to JRA’s services, a subject matter expert is also utilized on this project. The Cleveland Hearing and Speech Center (CHSC) is assisting JRA in ensuring the adequacy of the auxiliary aids and services as required by the ADA are utilized by agencies under the direction of the State of Florida, Department of Children and Families. CHSC’s Community Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing has 35 years of experience providing services for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, including American Sign Language interpreting and instruction, video relay services, case management, advocacy, information/referral, and consulting/community education on the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act as it pertains to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.