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Suit: Red Tape, Disability Stereotypes Mar Path To Driving


Suit: Red Tape, Disability Stereotypes Mar Path To Driving


February 26, 2014

Advocates are suing claiming that people with disabilities seeking driver’s licenses are being subjected to unfair scrutiny because of stereotypes about their abilities.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court last week on behalf of six North Carolina residents, attorneys with Disability Rights North Carolina claim that the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles is forcing those with special needs to undergo unnecessary road testing and medical exams.

The suit alleges that Logan Wilson, 18, who has cerebral palsy, was required to participate in extra testing even though his doctor provided assurances to the DMV that such measures were unnecessary for the Chapel Hill, N.C. resident.

In another case, Steven Chambers, 19, of Vale, N.C., who also has cerebral palsy, passed his driving test and provided documentation from his physician asserting that no follow-up on his condition should be necessary. Nonetheless, the lawsuit alleges that Chambers has been required to provide medical information to the DMV each year for four years. What’s more, Chambers says he was told to undergo and pay for a costly “behind the wheel assessment” conducted by an occupational therapist.

Other individuals with disabilities included in the suit say they were barred from driving more than a specified distance from their home or subjected to repeated testing, among other restrictions, according to the complaint.

“We can’t sit by and allow the DMV to stereotype and demean North Carolina drivers with disabilities,” said Vicki Smith, executive director of Disability Rights North Carolina.

“These individuals continue to be subjected to the DMV’s discriminatory operation of its driver licensing program,” Smith said. “This must end.”

The lawsuit alleges violations of state law as well as the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act and seeks changes in the DMV’s policies and practices.

Marge Howell, a spokeswoman for the North Carolina DMV, said in a statement that the agency is reviewing the complaint.

“We will work to resolve the matter as quickly as possible. We are disappointed that the organization decided to take legal action,” the statement said.