Understanding the Orozco v. Garland Appeal and Why It Is Important
By Valerie Yingling
Can both federal employees and members of the public with disabilities avail themselves of the full panoply of rights and remedies provided, either explicitly or implicitly, by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794d, including the right to file a civil action for injunctive relief?1
In other words, do blind people have the right to advocate and file suit when federal agencies fail to provide accessible information and technology? On Tuesday, October 18, a panel of three federal appellate judges will hear oral argument regarding that question in the National Federation of the Blind-supported case, Orozco v. Garland, a case that stemmed from an inaccessible workplace for a blind federal employee.
The outcome of the appeal will affect more than employee rights, however. When so much our lives are spent online and completing even the simplest of tasks requires technology, barriers to federal information and technology limit not only employment prospects of the blind, but our basic dignity and status as first-class citizens. Members of the public rely on federal information and communication technology (ICT) for no shortage of reasons—including paying taxes, monitoring Social Security benefits, and planning a visit to a favorite national park. Federal employees also rely on federal agency ICT for any number of reasons—including to perform their job duties, interact with colleagues, complete agency trainings, and apply for promotions.
Tuesday’s oral argument is critical for many reasons:
- Attorneys will argue the implications of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act—the law requiring that information and communication technology developed, procured, maintained, or used by the federal government be accessible to federal employees with disabilities as well as members of the public with disabilities.2
- Attorneys will argue what rights disabled people have when a federal agency does not use accessible information and communication technology. As referenced above, this appeal hinges on the question of whether an individual with disabilities has a right to file a complaint in federal court when federal technology is inaccessible.
The 2019 Orozco v. Wray complaint3 details the access barriers present for one federal employee in one federal agency. Multiply this by the number of blind individuals in the United States and you can understand the depth and weight of this case. In October 2021, a judge ruled that Section 508 is not enforceable through a private lawsuit. The National Federation of the Blind disagrees with this decision—Section 508 describes both who can take enforcement actions and against whom enforcement can be taken.4 We are eager and empowered to hear counsel argue how Section 508 includes a private right of action for individuals. And we hope you will join us the morning of October 18, either in person or virtually, to listen to this critical debate.
Hearing Event Details
- Attend in-person: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia at 333 Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20001. Please arrive by 9:00; the argument will be called sometime between 9:30 a.m. and noon.
- Attend virtually via YouTube. The argument will be called sometime between 9:30 a.m. and noon Eastern.
- Read another case involving a federal employee who faced an inaccessible workplace in the Braille Monitor article Victory in the Yasmin Reyazuddin Case.
1Orozco v. Garland Reply Brief for Plaintiff-Appellant
4Orozco v. Garland Reply Brief for Plaintiff-Appellant