[nfbmi-talk] Fw: Article: Deaf girl sues over Girl Scouts disbanding her troop
joe harcz Comcast
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Thu Aug 2 15:10:03 UTC 2012
----- Original Message -----
From: Robin Jones
To: GREATLAKES at LISTSERV.UIC.EDU
Sent: Thursday, August 02, 2012 10:50 AM
Subject: Article: Deaf girl sues over Girl Scouts disbanding her troop
The following article is forwarded to you by the Great Lakes ADA Center (www.adagreatlakes.org) for your information:
August 2, 2012
Deaf girl sues over Girl Scouts disbanding her troop
By Naomi Nix, Chicago Tribune reporter
Megan Runnion, who is deaf, can't understand the hallway chatter of her classmates at her elementary school, but for six years her Girl Scout troop gave her a social life in the hearing world.
The local Girl Scouts council paid for a sign-language interpreter to attend Megan's Girl Scout meetings, a camping trip and other outings.
But a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday on the 12-year-old's behalf alleged that the Girl Scouts abruptly disbanded Megan's Schaumburg troop early this year in retaliation for her mother's efforts to keep the 100-year-old organization paying for the interpreter.
The suit alleged that the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana excluded Megan because of her disability in violation of the federal Rehabilitation Act.
"She can't be part of the group if she doesn't understand what's being said," said her mother, Edie Runnion.
A representative of the local Girl Scouts council would not comment on the lawsuit, but said in an email that the organization "welcomes all girls as members."
"Girl Scouts has a long history of adapting activities for girls who have special needs, including those who have physical or developmental disabilities," spokeswoman Julie Somogyi said in the statement. "In fact, our founder, Juliette Gordon Low, was hearing-impaired."
Megan, who has been deaf since birth, joined the Girl Scouts in kindergarten, her mother said. At the time, her mother requested that an interpreter be present at Scouting activities, and the Girl Scouts agreed to that, she said.
But in the fall of 2011, the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana told Runnion that the "council does not pay for these services," the lawsuit alleged. Runnion made another request in October for her daughter to have an interpreter for a rock climbing event the next month.
But the local council complied only after Equip for Equality, a Chicago-based advocacy group for people with physical or mental disabilities, and the National Association for the Deaf sent a letter requesting an interpreter for the event, according to the lawsuit.
The Girl Scouts called the measure temporary and said it was in the process of forming a uniform policy, the lawsuit alleged. In January, Megan and her mother were at a troop dinner when the leaders broke the news that the troop was disbanding immediately, Runnion said.
"Everybody was shocked," she said. "The girls loved the Girl Scout troop."
According to the lawsuit, the leaders later told Runnion that the troop was disbanded because the Girl Scouts placed too many restrictions on what the troop could do because of the cost of an interpreter.
Runnion said she later learned from the Girl Scouts that the group would pay only a maximum of $50 a month for support services for girls with special needs. Megan's family would have to pick up the added expense.
"People aren't supposed to pay for their accommodations," said Barry Taylor, legal director for Equip for Equality and one of the lawyers representing the Runnion family.
Federal law requires that nonprofits and businesses serving the general public make accommodations for those who have disabilities, including "effective communication" for those who are hard of hearing. But organizations can avoid the requirement if they can prove the accommodation would produce an "undue burden" on the institution, an expert said.
The cost of an interpreter in the Chicago area averages between $55 to $60 an hour for a minimum two-hour assignment, said Jill Sahakian, director of the Chicago Hearing Society. Sahakian, who has not seen Runnion's lawsuit, said the cost might be higher for evenings and weekends.
But Runnion said her family of six relies on her husband's income as an inventory purchaser and can't afford the expense of an interpreter for her daughter.
Megan doesn't know why her troop was disbanded, but she still talks about missing seeing her friends at Scouting events, her mother said.
nnix at tribune.com
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