Communication Device Case
Preventing medical discrimination against the disabled
Six-year old Danielle Brown was born without the ability to form sounds to make words. She needed a special device called an augmentative and alternative communication device (AAC) that uses symbols, pictures, and a keyboard to help her communicate, but Medicaid had refused to pay.
The Center sued the agency, arguing that the AAC device was just as necessary to people with severe speech disorders as hearing aids are to people with hearing loss. Given that Medicaid already paid for hearing aids and other medically necessary equipment, failure to pay for the ACC devices violated the Medicaid Act and federal laws designed to protect disabled Americans from discrimination.
The suit was filed in June 1998 with help from the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program and the Assistive Technology Law Project. It was settled soon after and Medicaid began paying for the device for Danielle and other children and adults with severe speech disorders. One expert estimated that at least 35 Alabamians a year would need the ACC device.