Blind clinical social worker, represented by BGL and the National Federation of the Blind, files lawsuit against Department of Veterans Affairs for violating her federal rights under the Rehabilitation Act.

Laurette Santos, a dedicated and experienced clinical social worker employed by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs at its facility in White City, Oregon, has filed a federal lawsuit in the District of Columbia against the VA for failure to provide reasonable accommodations and accessible technology to allow Ms. Santos to independently perform her job as a blind individual.

The lawsuit alleges that the VA obtained and implemented inaccessible technology and failed to provide Ms. Santos reasonable accommodations, in violation of Section 508 and Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Ms. Santos is represented by The National Federation of the Blind and Brown Goldstein & Levy partners Eve Hill and Chelsea Crawford.

Ms. Santos has served the VA for over a decade and relies on the Job Access With Speech (JAWS) screen reader application to perform her job duties. Screen readers convert text and other content on a computer screen into spoken words (or Braille output through a connected device) and allow blind users to access and interact with applications using the computer keyboard. Despite Ms. Santos’s proven history of excellent performance as the Visual Impairment Services Team Coordinator, the VA’s implementation of an inaccessible electronic health record (EHR) system, Cerner Millennium, has severely curtailed her ability to work independently.

The complaint details the VA’s failure to ensure that the Cerner EHR system complied with Section 508 accessibility standards before its implementation. Despite multiple audits and repeated reporting of the system’s inaccessibility, the VA deployed Cerner, which requires the use of a mouse and has other features incompatible with JAWS and other screen readers, at its White City facility. This deployment has forced Ms. Santos to rely on sighted colleagues to perform essential tasks, undermining her ability to serve veterans effectively and jeopardizing her clinical license. Furthermore, the VA has not provided Ms. Santos with the reasonable accommodations necessary for her to perform her job independently, in violation of Section 501. The VA has failed to offer a workable solution or a timeline for resolving the accessibility issues with Cerner, even as the agency acknowledged the inaccessibility of the system and halted its deployment at the rest of the VA facilities.

The lawsuit alleges that the VA’s actions constitute ongoing violations of both Section 508 and Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act. Ms. Santos seeks a declaration of her rights, a permanent injunction requiring the VA to halt the deployment and use of non-compliant technology, and the establishment of accessibility review teams within the VA. Additionally, the lawsuit demands compensatory and punitive damages, as well as reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.

“It is my privilege to serve our nation’s courageous veterans, including many with disabilities, but now my ability to do so is severely compromised,” said Ms. Santos. “This case is not just about me, but about the quality services our veterans deserve and the ability of all federal employees to provide these and other services to our country in a manner that is equally effective.” 

“Over twenty-five years after Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act required federal agencies to procure and deploy accessible technology, covered entities like the VA are still overwhelmingly noncompliant,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “We are supporting this litigation not only to help an outstanding blind employee of a critical agency, but also to serve notice to other agencies throughout the federal government that continued willful failure to comply must come to an end and that blind Americans will not stop fighting until it does.”


Eve Hill is one of the nation’s leading civil rights lawyers, known especially for her work with clients with disabilities and LGBTQ+ clients. She has been recognized by Law360 as one of just 12 “Titans of the Plaintiffs’ Bar” for 2023, as well as by Lawdragon as one of the 500 Leading Lawyers in America (2022 and 2023). Her wide-ranging experience complements Brown, Goldstein & Levy’s decades of dedication to high-impact disability rights cases and its advocacy on behalf of individuals with disabilities and their families. Eve chairs the Board of Trustees for the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, a national legal advocacy organization advancing and protecting the civil rights of adults and children with mental illness. Eve also leads Inclusivity, BGL’s Strategic Consulting Group, which works with organizations to promote the education, engagement, and employment of people with disabilities. Learn more about Eve here.


A journalist-turned-litigator, Chelsea Jones Crawford joined Brown, Goldstein & Levy in September 2015 and has extensive experience representing individuals and entities in complex civil matters, including federal civil rights litigation, serious personal injury and wrongful death, and commercial disputes. At Brown, Goldstein & Levy, Chelsea has obtained some of the largest settlements in the State of Maryland. Chelsea’s many accolades include being honored as one of just 13 members of The Baltimore Banner’s 2024 class of Emerging Leaders. Chelsea is the only attorney in the 2024 class. Learn more about Chelsea here. 


Founded in 1982, Brown, Goldstein & Levy is a law firm based in Baltimore, Maryland, with an office in Washington, D.C. The firm is nationally recognized in a wide variety of practice areas, including complex civil and commercial litigation, civil rights, health care, family law, and criminal defense. Above all else, Brown, Goldstein & Levy is a client-centered law firm that brings decades of experience and passionate, effective advocacy to your fight for justice.