Blind Intelligence Analyst Wins Major Court Victory
Lawsuit Supported by National Federation of the Blind Reinstated
Washington, DC (February 27, 2023): Joe Orozco, a blind man who sued the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the United States Department of Justice with the assistance of the National Federation of the Blind because he is required to use inaccessible technology in his job as an FBI intelligence analyst, won a major victory in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on February 17, 2023. The appellate court ruled that a lower court erred in throwing out Mr. Orozco’s lawsuit.
The lower court held that Mr. Orozco was not entitled to sue under a provision of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which among other things requires federal agencies to procure accessible technology, because he is a federal employee. The Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit reversed this ruling, thereby reinstating the lawsuit.
The opinion stated, “Orozco … wants his employer to use available software that is accessible to blind employees like himself. Both parties agree that Section 794d of the Rehabilitation Act generally requires federal agencies, including the FBI, to use technology that is accessible to employees with disabilities. But the district court dismissed Orozco’s action on the ground that the Rehabilitation Act does not give him any right to bring a lawsuit against the FBI to enforce that obligation. We reverse. The plain text of Section 794d extends a private right of action to all persons with disabilities who file administrative complaints requesting accessible technology and who seek only injunctive and declaratory relief.”
Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “This ruling is a major victory for Joe Orozco and for all blind federal employees. It makes clear that these employees are not limited to relying on the very agencies that have procured inaccessible technology in the first place to investigate themselves and rectify their violations of the Rehabilitation Act. Affirming the district court’s erroneous ruling would have left many of these employees waiting in vain for their employers to act, as Joe has waited for far too long. He will now have the chance to take his claim to trial so that our independent judiciary can decide on its merits and, we hope, order the FBI to do what the law clearly requires. Much work remains to stop the government from continuing to waste taxpayer dollars on technologies that violate the letter and spirit of federal law.”