Blind Businesswoman Vindicated and Awarded over $30,000 by Jury in Federal Equal Access Case

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Blind Businesswoman Vindicated and Awarded over $30,000 by Jury in Federal Equal Access Case

National Federation of the Blind Supported Important ADA Litigation

San Francisco, California (April 29, 2024): A jury in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California rendered a verdict in favor of Lisamaria Martinez, a blind entrepreneur, in her equal access lawsuit against the County of Alameda. The jury found that the county Clerk Recorders Office deliberately violated her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California law and awarded damages in the amount of 30,500 dollars.

The lawsuit stemmed from an incident on March 29, 2019, at the Alameda County Clerk-Recorder’s Office, where Ms. Martinez was denied assistance to write information on a printed form in order to register her business name. The lawsuit asserted that this refusal contravened federal and state disability laws. Personnel at the office cited internal policy that prohibited clerks from providing transcriber services to assist Ms. Martinez in completing a paper form. Title II of the ADA specifically requires state and local government entities to provide auxiliary aids and services, such as a reader/transcriber to help blind or print-disabled people fill out forms. 

“This case underscores the legal obligations of public entities to ensure equal access and non-discriminatory treatment for all individuals, including the blind,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, which supported the litigation. “Even when technological solutions are available, the policies of these entities must be flexible so that blind people have the same options that are available to everyone else, including the ability to fill out a paper form. The fact that we had to join Lisamaria Martinez in her courageous five-year fight for one of the most basic accommodations contemplated by the law is shocking. Fortunately, the jury recognized and rectified this injustice. We stand ready to collaborate with any entity that seeks our help with best practices for providing both human and computer-based access for blind residents depending on their needs, but we will not tolerate willful discrimination and are prepared to fight until we win.”

"After a grueling five-year journey, my Federation family and I have reached a verdict that upholds the right to equal access for all,” said Lisamaria Martinez. “When Alameda County refused to collaborate with us on a solution, I was faced with a choice: remain silent or fight against a clear injustice. In choosing to fight, I risked being told my rights were different because I am blind—a risk worth taking to ensure no other blind person faces this kind of discrimination. I am grateful to the jury and proud to have torn down artificial barriers so that no other blind person who enters an Alameda County office will encounter them."

Lisamaria Martinez was represented by Timothy R. Elder of the San Francisco-based TRE Legal Practice, and Tomiyo Stoner of Undaunted Law Firm, P.C.

Chris Danielsen
Director of Public Relations
National Federation of the Blind
410-659-9314, extension 2330