Skip to main content

Department of Public Welfare Discriminates Against Deaf Pennsylvanians with Intellectual Disabilities

  • Published: 2010-04-30 : Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania.
  • Synopsis: Montgomery and Allegheny are counties in Pennsylvania that currently have community residential programs for deaf individuals with mental retardation

Main Document

Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania filed a class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court today against the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (DPW) alleging multiple violations of federal law in how DPW provides services to deaf persons with intellectual disabilities.

"Imagine living in a home where you cannot communicate with anyone - you can't tell someone what you like, or that you are sick or in pain. That's how hundreds of deaf people with intellectual disabilities are forced to live because DPW has failed to assure that they can communicate with those around them," says Rachel Mann, attorney at Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania.

According to the complaint, only "a small fraction of the counties in Pennsylvania have any residential mental retardation programs that accommodate the needs of deaf residents. Nor are there many other mental retardation programs, such as day programs, that accommodate such needs."

"Our clients want to be able to participate in the same kinds of programs afforded to other adults with intellectual disabilities - rehabilitation, vocational training, various therapies and social events," continues Mann. "DPW's discriminatory treatment clearly violates federal law."

The complaint - available at - cites violations of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title XIX of the Social Security Act. Disability Rights Network alleges that the Department of Public Welfare's ongoing failure to "provide equal access to programs and services" - by not, among other things, ensuring that providers hire staff who are fluent in American Sign Language - essentially subjects these persons to "a life of virtual isolation."

Montgomery and Allegheny are two of the few counties in Pennsylvania that currently have community residential programs for deaf individuals with mental retardation. Hundreds of others across Pennsylvania are unable to communicate effectively with house-mates and caregivers due to a lack of deaf-accessible services.

Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania works to advance, protect, and advocate for the human, civil, and legal rights of Pennsylvanians with disabilities. For more information, visit

Information from our Disability News: Pennsylvania section - (Full List).

Submit disability news, coming events, as well as assistive technology product news and reviews.

Loan Information for low income singles, families, seniors and disabled. Includes home, vehicle and personal loans.

Famous People with Disabilities - Well known people with disabilities and conditions who contributed to society.

List of awareness ribbon colors and their meaning. Also see our calendar of awareness dates.

Blood Pressure Chart - What should your blood pressure be, and information on blood group types/compatibility.

  1. New Peer-reviewed Journal 'Autism in Adulthood' Launching in 2019
  2. People Want to Live Longer - But Only If in Good Health
  3. Canada's Aging Population Signals Need for More Inclusive, Accessible Transportation System
  4. Britain's Unproductive Disabled: A Continuing Moral Panic?


Disclaimer: Content on Disabled World is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. See our Terms of Service for more information.

Reporting Errors: Disabled World is an independent website, your assistance in reporting outdated or inaccurate information is appreciated. If you find an error please let us know.