FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 1997

CR (202) 616-2777 TDD (202) 514-1888

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA OPTHAMOLOGY CLINIC AGREES NOT TO TURN AWAY PATIENTS WITH DISABILITIES, UNDER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SETTLEMENT WASHINGTON, D.C. -- An eye clinic in Orange County, California that turned away a patient because she had Down Syndrome will implement a new policy to ensure that it does not discriminate against patients with disabilities, under an agreement reached today with the Justice Department. The agreement resolves a complaint filed in September 1996 under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) against the Eye Institute of Orange County. In that complaint, submitted to the Justice Department, the parents of a 15 year-old girl who has Down Syndrome alleged that the girl was denied an appointment for an optometry exam in March 1996, because of her disability. In support of their allegations, the family submitted a tape recorded message left by an Eye Institute staff member on their answering machine that said the office "was not equipped to handle patients with Down Syndrome." "The presence of mental retardation, including Down Syndrome, should never be a reason to deny appropriate health care," said Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Isabelle Katz Pinzler. "Many people with disabilities already face obstacles such as the cost of medical care; they should not also have to worry about an additional obstacle of being denied medical attention because of their disability." Under the settlement agreement, the Eye Institute will: * * * * adopt a written policy stating that it will not refuse to treat patients with Down Syndrome or any other disability; post the policy in the lobbies of its offices and distribute it to all employees; require all employees to attend mandatory training on the policy; and, pay $5,000 in compensatory damages to the girl.

The compensation will be placed in a trust managed by a nonprofit organization that arranges trips specially organized for persons with developmental disabilities.

Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination by public accommodations such as medical practices against qualified individuals with disabilities on the basis of disability. Under title III, no individual should be discriminated against or refused medical treatment on the basis of disability. Individuals, medical offices, or other private businesses who wish to learn more about the ADA can contact the Justice Department's ADA technical assistance hotline at (800) 514-0301 (voice) or (800) 514-0383 (TDD) or to access the ADA Internet home page at: [http://www.usdoj/crt/ada/adahom.1.htm]. # # # 97-393