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Wisconsin software maker named in disability discrimination suit

If you drive about 90 miles due west of Milwaukee, you'll come to Verona, a modest suburb of Madison. The town of about 10,000 residents is home to Epic Systems Corporation, a company that boasts that its software is used to manage nearly two-thirds of all medical records in the U.S.

Epic was recently named in a disability discrimination lawsuit by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). The organization says Epic's software does not allow blind health care workers to have access to electronic medical records.

Screen-reading technology converts electronic data to the spoken word or Braille for vision-impaired individuals. NFB says though Epic's software does enable blind patients using screen readers to access health care records, the software does not do the same for blind workers who input and read data.

"Because blind individuals cannot use Epic's software on the clinical or administration side, they are effectively barred from employment at hospitals and facilities that use Epic's software," NFB states in documents filed in federal court.

In 2017, a blind hospital dispatcher filed a discrimination complaint because he was unable to do continue doing his job using text-to-speech technology after Epic's software was installed at the facility where he worked. The worker and hospital reached a settlement agreement, though terms were not disclosed.

Though Epic is based here in Wisconsin, the lawsuit asks for a permanent injunction to stop the company from selling or installing its blind-inaccessible software in Massachusetts.

The lawsuit says that by selling inaccessible software, "Epic has introduced an artificial job requirement of sight that has a disparate impact on blind individuals . . . who are otherwise qualified to be employed at hospitals and by healthcare providers."

It is not only unlawful for healthcare companies and software makers to discriminate against the disabled, it is unlawful for all other employers as well. Those facing workplace disability discrimination can contact the law offices of Alan C. Olson & Associates to discuss their legal options.

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