Mass. PHA Settles Discrimination Dispute Involving Resident with Disabilities
HUD recently announced that the Springfield Housing Authority in Springfield, Mass., has entered into agreements settling allegations of housing discrimination based on disability. The allegations involved an 82-year-old deaf housing authority resident who allegedly did not receive the same access to communications as individuals without disabilities, as required by the Fair Housing Act, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Specifically, the Springfield Housing Authority allegedly refused to grant a reasonable accommodation that would have provided the long-time female resident with the equipment needed to receive the same level of notification available to hearing tenants and allegedly denied her equal access to services they provide to other residents.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing providers from denying or limiting housing to persons with disabilities or from refusing to make reasonable accommodations in policies or practices. Similarly, the ADA and Section 504 prohibit certain housing providers from discriminating on the basis of disability, including failing to make reasonable accommodations and modifications, and failing to take appropriate steps to ensure effective communication with individuals with disabilities.
In addition to the housing authority agreeing to pay a total of $51,000 to the woman, it agreed to cover the $5,000 it will cost to monitor its compliance with the agreement over the next three years. The housing authority also agreed to communicate with the resident via American Sign Language or telephonic video relay communications and to provide a device to allow for a video relay system in her apartment. Finally, the housing authority agreed to consult with disability experts in addressing the needs of deaf tenants and to incorporate the recommendations of the most recent fire safety requirements specifically for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.