Lawsuit alleges homeowners association refuses to accommodate blind resident

FOLSOM, Calif. - Like many blind people, Margie Donovan uses her computer's accessibility feature and has every word read aloud to her. Emails, websites, Word documents; everything is heard out loud, with a monotone robot voice.

Donovan asked her homeowners association (HOA) to provide documents electronically so she could hear those too.

That hasn't happened.

"It has been very frustrating, very demoralizing," Donovan said.

So she filed a lawsuit last week. The suit alleges that for close to two years, Donovan has been fighting with the HOA board for Woodbridge, a gated community near the Folsom outlet stores.

MORE:Read the lawsuit

At one time, Donovan sat on the board, and asked all of those documents also be sent electronically.

"Because I needed the material in advance, to look at it, to be a responsible board member," she said.

Instead, Donovan got scans of the documents.

"When you scan a PDF file, it's an image of it," she said. "So screen readers cannot read it. It's like a picture."

For months Donovan and the board went back and forth, trying to figure out the best way to accommodate her.

In August 2012, they reached an agreement, and because many were frustrated by the time, money and effort spent, Donovan asked the agreement be kept confidential.

It purportedly wasn't.

Donovan's lawsuit claims she was accidentally sent an email correspondence between the board president and a property management worker. The worker, named Jennifer Kehoe, wrote, " ... it really creates a crunch time for me. It just takes me so much longer to put the packet together because of the steps I have to do specifically for her."

The board president, David Hickok, later responded, "We've spent WAY too much money on this and I've given way more personal time than I'd like to be dictated to by someone of her small caliber."

News10 attempted contacting multiple board members. The only one who answered her door was Barbara Jacobs, the board vice president.

"We haven't been notified [of the lawsuit]," Jacobs said. "So I have no comment."

When asked to explain why the board couldn't accommodate Donovan, Jacobs said, "I don't want to talk about. I said no comment."

Donovan has now been recalled from the board. She thinks it's retaliation for her requests.

"There should be no issue," she said. "It saddens me that we have to sue to make it happen, because it's going to cost our association a lot of money."

News10 also tried contacting the property manager, Frei Real Estate Services. A manager politely kicked reporter Nick Monacelli out of their office.


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