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Litigation Spotlight

DRP Settles Lawsuit against Commonwealth Department of Human Services Allowing Deaf Woman with Autism to Live Independently in the Community  

Disability Rights Pennsylvania (“DRP”) successfully settled a lawsuit against the Department of Human Services (“DHS”) so that D.G., a deaf woman with autism enrolled in the state’s Medicaid Adult Autism Waiver (AAW), could receive residential habilitation services while living independently in her community. Prior to the lawsuit, filed under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and Title XIX of the Social Security Act, D.G. was living at home and not receiving sufficient supports so that she could remain safe or be included in her local community. Although D.G. uses American Sign Language (“ASL”) to communicate, DHS refused to provide her with staff who were proficient in ASL, severely limiting her interactions with others. Moreover, D.G.’s mother, her main source of support, was diagnosed with stage 4 kidney failure at the end of 2016, putting D.G.’s ability to live safely in her family home in jeopardy.

D.G.’s mother, understanding that her medical condition was dire, located a community living home which offered staff who were fluent in ASL. She subsequently asked DHS to place D.G. at this inclusive community living home as part of her AAW services but the agency denied the request, insisting that D.G.’s current services were adequate. After DRP filed suit, DHS reversed its initial denial and placed D.G. with the community-based, residential habilitation provider whose staff are fluent in ASL. D.G. is happy to finally be able to communicate with her roommates and the staff supporting her, navigate the community independently, and make her own decisions. Among other activities, she enjoys visits with her mom and outings with friends.