December 10, 2012

HUD, Houston Housing Authority Settle Discrimination Complaint Involving Deaf Resident

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On October 23, HUD reached an agreement with the Houston Housing Authority resolving allegations that the housing authority discriminated against a deaf resident by refusing to provide her with an interpreter at a hearing to determine her continued eligibility for HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher program.  The resident was allegedly forced to rely on her daughter, who is a minor and not fluent in American Sign Language, to interpret for her.  The hearing resulted in the termination of the resident’s voucher.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires that no otherwise qualified individual be discriminated against on the basis of disability in any program or activity receiving federal funds.  Specifically, Section 504 requires that a federally funded housing provider bear the cost of providing a reasonable accommodation for an individual with a disability unless it would impose an undue administrative or financial burden.

After the resident filed a discrimination complaint with HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, the housing authority held a second hearing, with an interpreter, and reinstated the resident’s housing assistance.

After investigating the complaint the resident filed when her rental assistance was terminated, HUD entered into a Conciliation Agreement that requires the housing authority to pay $4,251 owed to the resident’s landlord during the period her rental assistance had been denied.  The housing authority is also required to notify its employees of its policy to provide interpreter services to hearing-impaired individuals, and to inform new voucher holders of their right to request reasonable accommodations, including interpreters.

HUD is committed to protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.  In the past year, HUD and its state and local partners in the Fair Housing Assistance Program investigated over 4,300 complaints of disability discrimination, of which more than 2,400 involved reasonable accommodations.  Anyone who believes that they have experienced discrimination based on disability may contact HUD at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or 800-927-9275 (TTY).  Complaints may also be filed online.

Bryan Greene is the General Deputy Assistant in HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

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