National Federation of the Blind: New Jersey State Agencies Discriminate Against Blind Employees
Newark, New Jersey (May 31, 2011): With the assistance of the National Federation of the Blind, nine blind people who are employed at New Jersey State agencies—including the New Jersey Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services and the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired—have filed a complaint against these State agencies; their parent agencies; and the New Jersey Office of Information Technology for unlawful discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The complaint arises from the State’s purchase and installation of inaccessible computer software that agency employees must use to fulfill their duties at work.
Employees of the aforementioned New Jersey agencies must utilize a system called Electronic Cost Accounting and Timesheet System (e-CATS), to record their own time and attendance data into a database that is used in generating the appropriate payroll check or deposit advice for each worker. The e-CATS system is also used for tracking and monitoring of leave balances, including vacation time available, sick leave balances, and other payroll information. The e-CATS system is inaccessible to blind people utilizing screen access technology, which converts the text on the screen into synthesized speech or Braille.
In addition to the e-CATS system, case management software deployed at the New Jersey Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services is similarly inaccessible to blind employees who must use the software to complete job functions.
Due to the inaccessibility of the computer software, the plaintiffs are unable to perform their job duties as assigned. One plaintiff was denied a promotion because of his inability to use the case management software, the complaint alleges.
Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “The National Federation of the Blind is outraged that blind employees of the State of New Jersey are subject to this blatant discrimination. It is unconscionable—and unlawful—that these blind employees are not being given the same opportunities as their sighted colleagues to succeed in their jobs and careers. We demand that the State of New Jersey immediately rectify this situation and install computer software that is accessible to its blind employees.”
The plaintiffs are represented with the assistance of the National Federation of the Blind by Joseph B. Espo and Timothy R. Elder of the Baltimore firm Brown, Goldstein & Levy, and Helen A. Nau of the Newark firm Krovatin Klingeman LLC.