McCullough v. California Department of Developmental Services


McCullough v. California Department of Developmental Services

Federal Court Preliminarily Approves Class Settlement to Improve Communication for Deaf Californians Who Receive Services from the State’s Department of Developmental Services 

A federal judge has preliminarily approved a class settlement that will bring crucial changes to the way the California Department of Developmental Services (DDS) oversees the provision of services, through regional centers, to deaf Californians with intellectual and developmental disabilities (“I/DD”). The settlement resolves claims that DDS has systemically failed to ensure deaf consumers receive effective communication through accommodations such as sign language interpreters and video phones, in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and California Government Code section 11135. Read the Settlement Agreement here.

Under the settlement agreement, DDS will work with the 21 regional centers that coordinate I/DD services to offer communication assessments to deaf consumers, offer specialized training to regional center staff and service providers, develop a housemate matching system for deaf consumers, and conduct outreach to work with local agencies that have experience providing services to deaf people. In addition, DDS will:

  • hire a statewide deaf specialist with knowledge about providing services and supports to deaf people;
  • work with experts to help DDS make decisions about how to support deaf people;
  • provide funding to each regional center to hire a deaf services specialist to better serve deaf consumers;
  • make services for deaf consumers a priority for specific grant funding;
  • create a webpage with information about deaf services; and
  • send a reminder to Regional Centers of the ADA’s requirements for the provision of effective communication to individuals who are deaf.

Read full press release and settlement here. 

Notice of Class Action Settlement


On April 30, 2020, Disability Rights California and Disability Rights Advocates filed a class action lawsuit against the California Department of Developmental Services (DDS) on behalf of deaf individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). The lawsuit charges the state agency with discrimination against deaf people who depend on regional center programs and services funded and administered by DDS. DDS’s data indicates that there are likely more than 5,000 deaf consumers who rely on its program.

DDS has failed to address systematic discrimination against deaf people with I/DD who have been denied the accommodations they need for effective communication, such as interpreters, staff fluent in American Sign Language (ASL), or communication devices. Without effective communication, deaf people with I/DD are isolated from social interaction and denied the opportunity to communicate and meaningfully engage in the community. Many deaf regional center clients have lived for years in complete isolation, unable to express their frustration and unhappiness, lonely and desperately wanting someone with whom they can communicate.

The state agency’s lack of policies, procedures, or practices regarding accessibility for deaf people with I/DD inhibits them from communicating effectively and denies them the opportunity to benefit from the Department’s services, programs, and opportunities that are afforded to people who can hear.

This lawsuit aims to ensure that the Department of Developmental Services provides equal access to programs, services, activities, and opportunities, in accordance with longstanding federal civil rights laws.

Significant Court Documents

Press Releases

Know your Rights

For information about the case view our fact sheet:
McCullough v DDS Fact Sheet (pdf)