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City Settles Suit With Deaf Citizen

Jail and several courtrooms will get videophones

By Jordan Smith, Fri., Aug. 3, 2012

Esther Valdez
Esther Valdez
Photo by Jana Birchum

For the second time in a decade, the city of Austin has settled a federal civil rights suit, reaffirming its agreement to provide training for Austin Police officers on how to effectively communicate with Austin's deaf population, including instructions on how to obtain sign language interpreters to ensure the kind of effective communication required under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The lawsuit was brought by the Texas Civil Rights Project on behalf of Esther Valdez, who is deaf and who was arrested in 2009 for resisting arrest after failing to hear an officer yelling at her to stop walking down a sidewalk along a busy street in North Austin. The story of Valdez's arrest was featured in a cover story in the Chronicle ("Tone Deaf," Dec. 3, 2010). The charges against her were eventually dismissed, but last year she filed suit against the city and against Travis County, arguing that the two entities discriminated against her based on her inability to hear. In settling the suit, the city has agreed not only to require additional training for police, but also to install videophones in the jail and in several courtrooms. For more on the story see, "Not So Tone Deaf?" Newsdesk, July 31.

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