Blind Couple Denied License for Day Care
When Tom and Christine Hutchinson decided to open a day-care facility in their home, they did everything the state of Colorado requires to obtain a license.
They took CPR and first-aid courses. They submitted to background and medical checks. They collected references. They had their home inspected. They went through interviews, detailing their experience volunteering in a day-care center and citing their degrees in child and family studies.
At the end of that six-month process, the Colorado Department of Human Services' Division of Child Care considered all that information and turned them down for one reason: The Hutchinsons are blind.
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The state is holding firm to the position that it has a mandate to ensure day-care operations are safe for children. The Division of Child Care maintains that this cannot be done in the Hutchinsons' case.
"The state's view is one of child safety. We don't believe they can have proper supervision in that setting," said Liz McDonough, spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services.
Similar battles have been fought and won in other states, according to Scott LaBarre, a Denver attorney who is representing the Hutchinsons and who handles cases across the country for the National Federation of the Blind.
LaBarre said the Hutchinsons' case differs in an important way: In the other cases, reasons other than blindness were given for not allowing a blind person to pursue a particular job.
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During home-inspection visits and licensing interviews, the state raised many concerns about that lack of sight. The interviewer questioned everything from how the Hutchinsons could administer medicine to the possibility their guide dogs might attack the children.
The Hutchinsons responded with point-by-point answers. They also agreed they would not take children under the age of 3 and would not have more than four children in their care.
"We recognize our limitations. It's not like we're asking to be taxi drivers or policemen," Tom Hutchinson said.