The state Department of Children and Family Services violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to accommodate an Edgard man with Crohn’s disease by allowing him to mail in or drop off his food stamp renewal application, an advocacy group contends .
Stewart Isaac was notified last month that his Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits were expiring, and that he had to fill out an application and have an interview to have them renewed, a federal suit states.
Following instructions from DCFS, Isaac mailed in his application. When he was not contacted for an interview, Isaac called DCFS and was told he could deliver a completed application to his DCFS office, the suit says.
Instead of accepting his completed application and his explanation that because of his Crohn’s disease he was not able to wait in the office for someone to help him fill out another application online, he was forced to wait in the office until he had an episode of diarrhea, the suit claims.
“People with disabilities have a right to have accommodations when they need them. They should not have to beg for adjustments to policies that pose barriers,” Nell Hahn, an attorney with the statewide Advocacy Center, said Tuesday.
The nonprofit group filed the suit on Isaac’s behalf.
“These rights are important enough to expect state agency personnel to be familiar with them and to extend them promptly when requested,” she added.
DCFS spokeswoman Lindsey deBlieux said the department cannot comment on pending litigation but stressed that “DCFS is committed to ensuring that all clients have access to the services that we provide.”
“In order to best serve our clients, particularly the elderly or those with disabilities, we have accommodations to meet their individual needs,” she said. “Such accommodations include the ability to submit applications via the Internet, or by telephone, fax or mail. Additionally, clients may select an authorized representative to assist with the process and speak to DCFS on their behalf.”
The suit, filed Friday in Baton Rouge federal court, seeks damages and an order requiring policy changes at DCFS. The suit has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick.
Crohn’s is an inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal tract that causes abdominal pain, cramping and frequent diarrhea.