HUD: Wheelchairs Users and Deaf Face Discrimination in Rental Housing Market

Rental housing providers tell prospects who are deaf or use wheelchairs about fewer available housing units than comparable testers who can hear and walk, according to a new study released by HUD and the Urban Institute.

The study was based on “paired testing” to compare the treatment of persons who are deaf or hard of hearing, and those who are wheelchair bound, against those who can hear and not wheelchair bound. Key findings include:

  • When well-qualified testers who are deaf or hard of hearing contacted rental housing providers and used assistive communication technologies to inquire about recently advertised rental housing, providers were less likely to respond to their inquiries.
  • The extent of apparent discrimination against people who are deaf or hard of hearing varies with the type of communication technology the deaf or hard of hearing person used to make contact with housing providers. Housing providers were more resistant to dealing with the older (but still widely used) telephone technologies that have longer communication delays.
  • When they did respond, the providers told testers who are deaf or hard of hearing about fewer available housing options than they told comparable testers who were hearing.
  • Well-qualified testers who use wheelchairs were more likely to be denied an appointment to view recently advertised rental housing in buildings with accessible units than comparably qualified testers who are ambulatory. Those who did receive an appointment were less likely than their ambulatory counterparts to be told about and shown suitable housing units.
  • When testers who use a wheelchair ask about modifications that would make the available housing more accessible to them, rental housing providers agreed in most instances. In a quarter of the requests, however, providers either failed to provide a clear response or explicitly denied modification requests.

“Every American deserves the opportunity to secure a home,” HUD Secretary Julián Castro said in a statement. “But the evidence is clear: people who are hearing-impaired or in wheelchairs face unacceptable and unjust discrimination. HUD will continue to work with our fair housing partners to protect the rights of Americans with disabilities and to promote opportunity for all.”

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. In FY 2014, disability was the most common basis of complaints filed with HUD and its partner agencies, being cited as a basis for 4,606 complaints, or 54 percent of the overall total.

The study, Discrimination in the Rental Housing Market Against People Who Are Deaf and People Who Use Wheelchairs, is available on HUD’s website at