Springfield Housing Authority Settles Allegations of Discrimination Against Deaf Resident
The Springfield Housing Authority in Massachusetts recently agreed to settle allegations of discrimination against an 82-year-old deaf resident, who allegedly did not receive the same access to communications as individuals without disabilities. The housing authority was accused of refusing to grant a reasonable accommodation that would have provided the long-time 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, 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.
Under the settlement, the housing authority agreed to pay $51,000 to the woman and to cover $5,000 in costs 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 unit. 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.
“Today’s agreement reaffirms HUD’s commitment to ensuring that all housing providers, including housing authorities, understand their obligations under the law and take steps to meet that obligation so that every person has an equal chance to use and enjoy their housing,” Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said in a statement.