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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

An Injunction in Connecticut

 In The Politics of Autism, I write:  "Support from the general public will be an important political asset for autistic people. Another will be their sheer numbers, since a larger population of identified autistic adults will mean more autistic voters and activists."  Previous posts have discussed autistic officeholders and political candidates in California,  New YorkGeorgiaTexas, and Wisconsin.

Chris Dehnel at Enfield Patch:

A Connecticut judge has ordered an injunction against the Enfield Board of Education as part of a lawsuit brought forth by a former board member who is both autistic and deaf.

Sarah Hernandez, regarded as one of the first openly autistic people to run for, and be elected to, public office in Connecticut, filed a lawsuit against the school board, the town of Enfield and then-board chairman Walter Kruzel in late 2019. The suit claims she was discriminated against in violation of the federal Americans With Disabilities Act.

On June 14, United States District Judge Stefan R. Underhill announced the injunction in Bridgeport.



The injunction was the next step in the lawsuit after a federal jury in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport sided with Hernandez in January, finding the board and the town discriminated against her in violation of Title II of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act for failing to provide her with basic accommodations needed to equally participate as a member of the board.

Hernandez was elected to the school board in 2017, running for a seat because she wanted to "show up and be a voice for people with autism in the decision-making process," she said upon filing the suit.

She has difficulty hearing and understanding telephone conversations and in-person conversations unless she gets written materials, can see the speakers and can take notes. She asked the board to communicate with her between meetings in writing, such as by email and text, and to provide written materials and an erasable white board for note-taking, according to the lawsuit.

Although the board agreed to the accommodations, Kruzel and other board officials refused to follow through, repeatedly insisting on communicating by telephone between meetings and refusing to provide written information or a white board for executive sessions. Her requests were often met with open hostility and anger, according to the lawsuit.