The Woodlands Retina Center Settles Claim to Ensure Accessibility for People with Disabilities
HOUSTON - The U.S. Attorney’s Office has resolved a claim that The Woodlands Retina Center violated the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it refused to treat a disabled patient because he was accompanied by a service animal, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
The United States initiated an investigation after receiving a complaint that alleged The Woodlands Retina Center discriminated against people with disabilities and denied equal access to medical services to people with disabilities who use service animals. The individual alleged The Woodlands Retina Center told him they had a “no dog policy” and refused to treat him because a service animal accompanied him during an eye appointment.
Under the ADA, persons with disabilities who are accompanied by their service animals shall be afforded the opportunity to participate in or benefit from the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations equal to that afforded to other individuals. The government is authorized to commence a civil action when it is believed discrimination exists, seeking damages and full compliance with the ADA including requiring the owners and operators of places of public accommodations to make reasonable modifications to policies, practices and procedures.
Dr. Wael Abdelghani owns The Woodlands Retina Center, which is a professional office and a place of public accommodation under the ADA.
“This settlement resolves an allegation of discrimination based on disability,” said Patrick. “The announcement today should make clear that our medical professionals must provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities and that every member of our society is entitled to equal access to medical services.”
The settlement agreement requires The Woodlands Retina Center to adopt a service animal policy that will ensure it accepts and treats disabled patients accompanied by service animals.
The settlement agreement also requires The Woodlands Retina Center to pay the individual who made the claim compensatory damages.
Finally, the settlement agreement provides that the U.S. Attorney’s Office monitors the center to ensure it is meeting its obligations under the ADA.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Keith Edward Wyatt and Paralegal Specialist Raymond Babauta handled this matter on behalf of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.