San Rafael, CA. In a precedent-setting decision, a California judge ordered the California Department of Motor Vehicles to provide, free of charge, an interpreter to assist illiterate people taking the driver’s license eye test.
Holding that the Equal Protection Clause protects “the literate as well as the unliterate.” Judge Phoebe Winebauer held that impoverished illiterate people taking the eye exam required for a driver’s license in California must be given the services of a qualified interpreter. “How can even the person with perfect vision be expected to pass the eye test which uses letters and numbers if the person cannot read?” asked Judge Winebauer. “I refuse to allow such discrimination. We are equal or we are not equal but the law will not tolerate us being both unless we are one or the other,” she opined in a carefully nuanced 400 page opinion.
Governor Jerry Brown applauded the decision and immediately ordered the State to hire 250 interpreters to be assigned to every DMV location where eye examinations are offered.
At the San Rafael DMV office, Hector Alvarez, age 96, who is both illiterate and has been blind since birth proudly stepped up to the eye examination machine and took his first eye test. Standing next to him was Rebecca Morris, a 21 year-old high school dropout with perfect vision who was recently hired to assist “literacy-challenged” people like Mr. Alvarez.
Mr. Alvarez peered into the machine, then moved back as Ms. Morris looked inside. “Line 12 is R, B, P. 6. D. 9” she whispered to Alvarez. Grinning, he repeated “line 12, R, B, P …” and was interrupted by the DMV agent administering the test. “Good job, Mr. Alvarez,” said the agent. “You passed. I don’t need to proceed further.”
“Only in America is this possible,” said a beaming Mr. Alvarez. “I could not even have dreamed I could get a driver’s license, but now I have one. I can’t wait to take my great grandchildren on a long drive!