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Case Name Mackes v. Colorado Department of Corrections PC-CO-0038
Docket / Court 1:21-cv-01100 ( D. Colo. )
State/Territory Colorado
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Prison Conditions
Attorney Organization Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center
Case Summary
This lawsuit was filed on April 21, 2021 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado by two blind men in the custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) as well as the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado, on behalf of the two men as well as other members who are or ... read more >
This lawsuit was filed on April 21, 2021 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado by two blind men in the custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) as well as the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado, on behalf of the two men as well as other members who are or may be in the custody of CDOC. Plaintiffs were represented by the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center and private counsel. They alleged that CDOC violated their rights under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act by excluding them from benefits, services, programs, and activities, subjecting them to discrimination, and failing to make required reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures to avoid such discrimination on the basis of disability.

In particular, the plaintiffs asserted that CDOC provided or required important information and communication in writing, without offering in an accessible or alternative format. For example, Post Orders, orientation materials, administrative regulations, mealtime menus, and numerous other sources of information were available in writing only, without an accessible alternative. CDOC's grievance program required incarcerated persons to fill out a printed form in writing, and the plaintiffs could not independently or privately complete the form or read responses to the grievances. Medical appointment request forms had to be completed in writing, and the plaintiffs could not independently or privately write these requests; their attempts to write on raised-line paper were not always accepted. Similarly, blind persons at the prison could not independently or privately submit names and phone numbers for approval on their phone call lists, because doing so required submitting a written list of names and numbers, and could not independently read, write, or send correspondence by mail.

Instead of providing accessible versions of the materials and programs at issue, CDOC assigned blind persons in their custody, including plaintiffs, "Offender Care Aides" to read and write for them, and to guide them within the facility. These Aides were other persons in CDOC custody. Plaintiffs argued that the need to rely on these Aides for reading and writing compromised their security and privacy, and left them at the mercy of the Aide's literacy skills, ethical principles, work ethic, and self interest. Reliance on the Aides has resulted in denial of information, medical care, missed mealtimes, and access to grievance and other programs. And there were not always enough Aides available to help all in need of assistance at a given time.

Plaintiffs further alleged that lack of screen reading software, or training on how to use it, has limited their computer access to legal or other documents. Moreover, certain educational and vocational programming was not available in an accessible way, resulting in exclusion from the programs and reduced salaries. In addition, plaintiffs were unable to read the clocks that most sighted persons used to tell time, but were only able to access talking watches if they paid for them themselves.

Plaintiffs sought declaratory relief, and injunction against CDOC to cease violating the rights of blind persons in its custody, to cease refusing to reasonably modify its policies, procedures and practices and to provide auxiliary aids and services, to cease refusing to ensure equal participation in and benefit from education and work programs, to prohibit housing blind persons in a double cell or a cell without plumbing, and to cease denying blind persons the independent ability to read, write, conduct research, and access programs. They also sought compensatory damages and attorneys' fees. The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Christine M. Arguello.

On August 24, 2021, plaintiffs filed a motion to consolidate the case with Montoya v. Colorado Department of Corrections, No. 20-cv-03345 (D. Colo.). That motion remains pending.


Tessa Bialek - 09/24/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Defendant-type
Corrections
Jurisdiction-wide
Disability
Visual impairment
Discrimination-area
Accommodation / Leave
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Bathing and hygiene
Conditions of confinement
Confidentiality
Effective Communication (ADA)
Law library access
Mail
Phone
Reasonable Accommodations
Reasonable Modifications
Screen readers and similar accessibility devices
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
Defendant(s) Colorado Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description Two blind men incarcerated in the custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections and The National Federation of the Blind of Colorado, in its representative capacity on behalf of the two other plaintiffs and other members who are, or may be, incarcerated in the custody of CDOC.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Unknown
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 04/21/2021
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Court Docket(s)
D. Colo.
09/17/2021
1:21-cv-01100-CMA-MEH
PC-CO-0038-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
D. Colo.
04/21/2021
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PC-CO-0038-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Arguello, Christine M. (D. Colo.) show/hide docs
PC-CO-0038-9000
Hegarty, Michael E. (D. Colo.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PC-CO-0038-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Hill, Eve Lynne (Maryland) show/hide docs
PC-CO-0038-0001 | PC-CO-0038-9000
Lafferty, Martha M. (Tennessee) show/hide docs
PC-CO-0038-0001 | PC-CO-0038-9000
Robertson, Amy Farr (Colorado) show/hide docs
PC-CO-0038-0001 | PC-CO-0038-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Bauer, Scott Robert (Colorado) show/hide docs
PC-CO-0038-9000
Spalding, Kathleen L. (Colorado) show/hide docs
PC-CO-0038-9000

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