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Visually Impaired Missouri Prisoner Receives Settlement Over Denial of Reasonable Accommodations

by Christopher Zoukis

Richard Ruffin, a prisoner at the Missouri Eastern Correctional Center (MECC), received an enforced settlement with the prison and prison officials, one aspect of which provides him with enlarged-text materials that he is able to read with his visual disability.

     Ruffin was suffering from end-stage glaucoma while he was imprisoned at MECC. He was unable to read standard-sized text, so he allegedly made several reasonable accommodation requests for material that would allow him to be able to equally participate in services, programs and activities. Daily call-out sheets that notify prisoners of appointments were printed in type too small for him to read, resulting in missed medical appointments for which he was disciplined. He also requested a guidance cane, magnifiers, telescopic glasses and a footlocker with a keypad lock. His requests were denied by Dr. John Williams. Upon review, Health Services Administrator Angela Henderson affirmed the denial. Finally, Ruffin’s requests were denied by Warden Jennifer Sachse.

     On April 6, 2010, Ruffin filed a pro se complaint in federal court against Williams, Henderson, Sachse, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinator and Deputy Warden Mike Layden, MECC Medical Administrator Jane Doe, MECC and the Missouri Department of Corrections (MDOC). He argued that the defendants were violating the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and sought punitive damages, legal costs and an injunction prohibiting the defendants from refusing necessary auxiliary aids, refusing necessary medical devices and denying him access to medical care.

     Williams was removed from the case, and on March 16, 2012, Ruffin agreed to a settlement with Sachse, Layden, MDOC and MECC. On April 5, Ruffin asked the court to enforce the settlement because the call-out list was still being printed in a size and format that he could not read. On June 8, the court ordered the defendants to comply with the terms of the settlement. The case was dismissed with the consent of all parties by Judge Henry E. Autrey on June 29.

See: Ruffin v. Sachse, et al., United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Case No. 4:10-cv-00589-HEA (Mar. 16, 2012)

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Related legal case

Ruffin v. Sachse, et al.