By: Lorinda Gonzalez
…it’s a smile, it’s a kiss, it’s a sip of wine … it’s summertime!
– Kenny Chesney
Sabrina Cohen Foundation
Sabrina Cohen Foundation
Arnaldo Rios-Soto is the 27 year old Autistic Man who was involved in the North Miami shooting on July 18, 2016. Arnaldo was sitting in the middle of the street by his group home with his favorite toy truck, rocking back and forth. His hand movements and rocking behavior was self- soothing behavior that is not unusual for an Autistic person. His behavioral technologist, Charles Kinsey, was trying to get him to go back to the home. Eighty-five seconds after it was announced on the police radio that Mr. Rios-Soto had a toy, Officer Jonathan Aledda aimed his rifle at Arnaldo Rios-Soto, and shot Charles Kinsey. Like everyone, Arnaldo’s family saw the video of Charles Kinsey lying on the street with his arms raised attempting to protect Arnaldo. Until last week, it was believed that Arnaldo was held in a police car for over three hours, until he was returned to the group home.
For the three hours after the incident, North Miami stripped away Arnaldo Rios-Soto’s civil rights and human rights. Even though it was known that Mr. Rios-Soto had a toy, he was arrested and handcuffed at gunpoint, held in police vehicles for hours, and then repeatedly questioned, and interrogated at the police station. At all times, each person knew that
Arnaldo Rios-Soto had a disability and was not able to respond to questions. Nevertheless, North Miami disregarded the trauma that he had undergone as a victim, and held him solely in an attempt to extract a confession to exonerate Officer Aledda. Click here to view the custodial interrogation of Arnaldo Rios-Soto. In treating Arnaldo Rios-Soto worse than any criminal who they recognize have constitutional rights, the North Miami Police trampled the bounds of a civilized society and victimized a person who they were obligated to safeguard.
The question that we are most often asked is – How is Arnaldo doing?
Arnaldo Rios-Soto is not doing well, and it will take years for him to recover. After the incident, he went back to the scene of the shooting and was inconsolable. He continues to believe that any person in a uniform is going to hurt him.
Now, the only placement option to provide the increased care Arnaldo needs was in an intensive residential placement in Central Florida that specializes in persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities who exhibit complex and extreme behavioral disorders. Arnaldo is currently living in a residential behavioral facility in Mt. Dora, Florida, Carlton Palms Educational Center. Gladys Soto and her daughter moved from their long time residence in South Florida to Ocala to be near Arnaldo.
Prior to the incident, Arnaldo was classified as requiring intensive behavioral care at a level one, from a scale from one to six. Currently, he is at the highest level, or level six, of behavioral needs. Unlike adults or persons who can fully verbally express themselves, it is difficult for Arnaldo to convey how he feels.
For adults, post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) manifest by demonstrating a range of symptoms which includes hypervigilance, flashbacks, nightmares, sleep disturbance, mood disorder, emotional numbing, and difficulties with concentration. As a result, PTSD has a correlation with depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, personality disorder, chronic pain, somatization, greater use of medical and mental health resources, and non-compliance with treatment.
However, with a person with intellectual and developmental disabilities who cannot express himself, it manifests itself in aggressive and regressive behaviors. Arnaldo has gained 35 pounds and yells out “Police!” spontaneously, irresponsive of any activity going on around him. He has withdrawn from community or group activities and would prefer to sleep. Because of the lack of appropriate treatment for extreme stress related treatments for persons with intellectual disabilities with limited verbal skills, this will be an extremely difficult road for Arnaldo.
The goal for Arnaldo’s family is for Arnaldo to be able to live at home with adequate staffing and treatment, but Arnaldo has a long road before he is able to do that. There is no question that this tragedy could have been worse, and Gladys still has her son to hug and care for, that serves as no excuse to any human being treated as if their rights and lives are worthless.
Arnaldo and his mother brought claims for a violation of Arnaldo’s constitutional rights, as well as his right to be able to live in the community as a person with a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act. Click here to read a copy of the complaint, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida,
This event should be a clear call to police departments across the nation to learn about the residents with developmental or intellectual disabilities who live in their neighborhoods. For the past ten years, the North Miami Police responded to incidents in Arnaldo’s group home. Instead of obtaining training regarding these disabilities, they arrested, or tazed the residents of the group home. Disability should not be viewed as a crime, people with disabilities should not be assumed to be dangerous or unstable. Stereotypes of persons with disabilities, as well as the stereotypes of caregivers of persons with disabilities led to this shooting.
Mr. Larry McDowell presented to our office for a consultation on the afternoon of Thursday, March 17, 2016. When Mr. McDowell arrived, he needed to be guided by holding on to someone in order to get places in the office; he will need to bring someone with him who can assist him in walking as it is a liability for the office staff to physically guide him themselves. Mr. McDowell will also need assistance in going over treatment, signing paperwork, and etc.
We Apologize for Any Inconvenience.
When Larry McDowell went to Affordable Dentures in West Palm Beach, Florida, to have a dental procedure on March 17th, there was no reason that he could possibly believe that he wouldn’t be able to get the same services as anybody else. But once Mr. McDowell reached the front desk, he was directed to follow someone to the examination room. Mr. McDowell then said, “I’m blind, could you help to where I’m going?” The employee at the desk said nothing. Once a member of the office staff arrived, Mr. McDowell asked for assistance to the examination room – Mr. McDowell asked to hold her elbow.
She said, “No. We can’t help you unless you have someone to help you. We can’t treat you unless you bring someone to assist you.” Mr. McDowell then asked to speak to the dentist. When Mr. McDowell asked where the dentist was, the employee replied that he was in surgery and would be there for the next two hours. A patient who was watching the interaction told Mr. McDowell, “No he’s not. He’s standing right there.” After the patient’s remark, the employee said to Mr. McDowell, “The dentist doesn’t want to speak to you today.”
Mr. McDowell requested Affordable Dentures to email a copy of written reason to his sister, and they sent the above letter. It was then while Mr. McDowell was waiting in the office, an employee approached him and informed him he could not wait inside the office any longer and must leave, since the dentist would not be seeing him today—with the knowledge that Mr. McDowell had taken public transportation.
The Human Rights Ordinance of Palm Beach County provides more remedies than the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Florida Civil Rights Act by providing both monetary damages and requiring changes of businesses that discriminate against persons with disabilities. It also investigates complaints and attempts to resolve complaints before a lawsuit is necessary.
On July 18, 2016, Mr. McDowell filed a complaint against Affordable Dentures for disability discrimination in violation of the Housing and the Places of Public Accommodation Ordinance. The County did a full investigation and made a finding that Mr. McDowell was the subject of discrimination on March 7, 2017, and with the facilitation of the Palm Beach Office of Equal Opportunity, entered into a Conciliation agreement. While Affordable Dentures did not admit liability, it agreed to the following in an enforceable settlement with Palm Beach County.
Larry McDowell’s needs were basic human needs, and the outright denial of needs bases solely on his disability transforms him, in the eyes of this medical provider into a human who is not worthy of these basic needs. Notwithstanding that the ADA is over 25 years old, it is common-place that medical professionals, who are dedicated to the health of their patients, are too often dismissive of their patient’s disability-related needs. Most discrimination against persons with disabilities are not so blatant and ignorant as what occurred with Mr. McDowell.
Mr. McDowell did receive a written apology, not in an accessible format, but, it stated as follows:
Dear Mr. McDowell:
We are aware that your visit to our office for dental consultation on March 17, 2016 did not meet your expectations for the level of service that we strive to deliver. This entire incident has been the subject of substantial scrutiny and review and has resulted in changes to some of our procedures to avoid any such occurrences in the future.
Please understand that it is my personal policy and the practice in my office that all patients and other visitors to our facility are treated with dignity and respect. My staff and I sincerely regret that you left our office feeling that you had not received the level of care you deserve. We apologize for any shortcoming on our part, no matter how unintended it was.
This non-apology does not admit that there was anything wrong with the refusal of services to Mr. McDowell and further implies that Mr McDowell was hypersensitive or irrational in taking offense at the discrimination that he felt.
However, this is not an issue of perception of slight, the greater issue is that because of the type of behavior exhibited by Affordable Dentures, persons with disabilities are less likely to receive needed health care. According to a Disability Healthcare Access Brief published by the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, 19% of people with disabilities reported that they did not receive medical care needed in the previous year, compared to 6% of able-bodied persons.People with disabilities tend to be in poorer health and to use health care at a significantly higher rate than people who do not have disabilities.
However, a biding conciliation agreement and a substantial settlement ensures compliance, especially when a law with teeth is more powerful than a pair of dentures.
For a person with depression and anxiety, an emotional support animal provides the impetus to wake up in the morning and go to school or work. For Austin Cline, a student at Hillsborough Community College, Luna, his dog, gives him the ability to leave his parents house, go to college and then go to his job. For years, Austin lived with chronic depression and anxiety. He tried exercise, diet and medication, but was not doing well. Austin researched and discussed an emotional support animal with his psychologist as part of his treatment, and she prescribed the emotional support animal for him.
At Hillsborough Community College, Austin lives in a dormitory-style apartment that does not allow pets. However, Austin did research on the internet and knew that he had rights under the Fair Housing Act to have an Emotional Support Animal as a modification of the no-pets rules to accommodate his disability. The dorm-style apartment is managed by Peak Campus Management, and Peak Campus Management operates dozens of dormitory apartments with thousands of tenants across the country.
While Peak Campus Management allows emotional support and service animals, it promulgates rules and regulations for those animals which either surcharge an animal owner for having an animal, or it limits the animal users’ use and enjoyment of the premises. Under the Fair Housing Act, rules, policies, or practices must be modified to permit the use of an assistance animal as a reasonable accommodation in housing when its use may be necessary to afford a person with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling and the common areas of a dwelling. For all the rules, see Peak Service Animal Rules.
A Landlord may not require a tenant to pay a fee or a security deposit as a condition of allowing an assistance animal. However, if a tenant’s assistance animal causes damage to the tenant’s unit or the common areas of the apartment, the landlord may charge the tenant for the cost of repairing the damage or deduct it from the standard security deposit imposed on all tenants.
It is cruel to require that all cats that are emotional support animals be declawed. Declawing is a process in which is a process where a cat’s claw, the bone, nerve, joint capsule, collateral ligaments, and the extensor and flexor tendons must all be amputated. In human terms, it is similar to cutting off of a person’s finger at the last joint of each finger. Again, if the cat damages furniture, the tenant would be responsible for the damage. Having a rule which requires a person to mutilate their cat that he or she needs for depression would certainly dissuade a person with a disability from even moving into the facility.
The only defense to denying an assistance animal is whether the animal would pose a direct threat to others. While some people may have allergies or other reasons that a person does not want to live with or near an animal, the remedy is to switch roommates, rather than having an accommodation dependent on another person’s desires.
A person that has an emotional support animal does not have their animal with them at all times. Emotional support animals are not service animals and are not permitted in public accommodations, schools or other governmental facilities. Rules that require than an animal cannot be left unattended on the premises, and even in their apartments and rooms unattended require the person with a disability to be isolated.
No matter how a surcharge is worded, cleaning fees, agreement to indemnify and hold harmless, releases, or any other way or method which dissuades a person from having an accommodation are prohibited. For housing providers that allow pets, conditions and restrictions that housing providers apply to pets may not be applied to assistance animals. For housing providers that do not allow pets, a housing provider cannot create new conditions and restrictions on persons who have assistance animals, other than the animal cannot be a direct threat to the health and safety of others and that they are responsible for the damages that their animals have caused.
Under the Fair Housing Act, a person with a disability is entitled to an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling and the common areas of a dwelling. This includes the common areas of the apartment, going into friends units with the dog, or even having a person visit who has a dog or cat that is an assistance animal. In as much as a landlord cannot prevent a person who is blind with a guide dog from visiting a person who lives in a no-pets building, a landlord cannot prevent a person with an assistance animal from visiting a tenant.
For more information, please see
Disability Independence Group, Inc.’s Assistance Animal Page
Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA | PDF This eight-page document provides guidance and answers questions about the ADA’s service animal provisions.
Revised ADA Requirements: Service Animals | PDF This publication provides guidance on the term “service animal” and the service animal provisions in the Department’s new regulations.
“Service Animals and Assistance Animals for People with Disabilities in Housing and HUD-Funded Programs” Department of Housing and Urban Development guidance on how the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) intersect regarding the use of service or assistance animals by persons with disabilities.
By: Matthew Dietz
Rachel Siler was looking forward to moving to Miami Beach in April 2016. Rachel went to art school in Chicago and after graduating from college she started working in the Independent Living and Disability Rights Movements. Aside from this passion she has also represented the disability community within the Occupy and Anti-war Movements. When she isn’t fighting for social justice she enjoys reading, antiquing and designing.
For the past thirteen years, she had lived in cold and windy Chicago working at Chicago’s Access Living, assisting people with disabilities and a coordinator of Chicago ADAPT, an organization that has dedicated disability rights activists that engage in nonviolent direct action, including civil disobedience, to assure the civil and human rights of people with disabilities to live in freedom. She found a job as an independent living specialist at the Center for Independent Living of South Florida and was ready to move to sunny Miami Beach.
As a wheelchair user herself, Rachel knew what she needed in order to live independently in Miami Beach. She needed to live near to public transportation, a safe surrounding area, a building with an elevator, a residence that was affordable and accessible, and adequate green space so that her service animal, Minty could be walked. Before moving down to Florida, she visited the area and hired a real estate agent. During her visit, she looked at eight residences. However, none these residences met her needs. When she returned home, the agent sent Rachel information about a condominium on Miami Beach at Abbot House Condominum, and it was perfect – one of the largest homes that she ever lived in.
She entered in to the lease with the owner of the condominium, and was told that a condition of moving in was physically meeting with the condominium association board screening committee and receiving written approval. This was only supposed to be a formality. So, Rachel spoke with the property manager, received permission to move her belongings in on May 21st, and packed and started the trek across the United States with her mother and a friend.
When Rachel came to Miami on May 20th, with her personal assistant, she did not get the reception that she was expecting. The association manager met her and was shocked, he told her that she did not know that she had a “condition”. She then went to a meeting with two of the board members of the Condominium.
Instead of speaking to Rachel, the board member started asking questions of Rachel’s assistant, as if Rachel could not speak for herself –
“No, she can speak for herself,” said the assistant. Rachel continued, and attempted to explain her existence, she explained that she works forty hours per week and she schedules personal assistants around that work schedule. Notwithstanding the humiliation at having to explain the fact that she lives and works like any other person, the screening committee than attempted to try to convince Rachel why she should not live at Abbot House.
Rachel told the Board that she would pay for any modifications to her own residence and the buildings elements are accessible to her and she did not need any modifications. When they could not dissuade her, the association requested that she sign a waiver, releasing the condominium from all liability from any injuries. To live in her home, she agreed, and then was provided the keys to the public areas, including the exterior door with the wheelchair ramp.
But before she could move in, the property manager told her that, the board that approved her tenancy to her face, now decided to decline her rental request, and followed up with an email:
This is to inform you that Ms. Rachel D. Siler, as a prospective tenant of Unit 4A, was denied by the Board of Abbott House Condo under the powers and duties of the Bylaws of the Association (See two (2) pages of the attachment).
By the understanding of the Board of Directors of ABBOTT HOUSE, INC. A CONDOMINIUM, the building has not the appropriate accessibility for people with disabilities conditions for the following reasons:
– The access to the building and other common areas as accessible route are not appropriate. We have not physical access like route, curb ramps, entrances and loading areas,
– There is not an appropriate parking space for a disable people. All of them are narrows,
– There is not a restroom and bathroom accommodation, etc.
All of the above are part of the main considerations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Therefore, the Association cannot be responsible for any future claim requested by Ms. Siler and any other officer of the Miami-Dade County
Stranded in Miami Beach, with no home, Rachel Siler, an independent living specialist, was in a nightmare that she would usually be the person who these issues would be reported to. But in a new city, she did not know where to turn. She reached out to Disability Independence Group.
On Monday, May 23, Rachel Siler, with the assistance of her family and her personal assistant, decided to move into her condominium in spite of Abbot House refusal to approve her lease in spite of their denial. Until a lawsuit was filed, Rachel and her service animal were harassed and attempts were made to block her and her personal assistant from the property.
It is unlawful to deny a person housing based upon insurance liability concerns. Historically, people with disabilities have been stereotyped in many different ways. Some of the stereotypes used to label people with disabilities as incapable of living independently, having a job, having a social and sex life and enjoying their life to the fullest.
The most common barriers to persons with disabilities are not physical barriers, but the attitudinal barriers that lead to this type of discrimination. The Fair Housing Act does not allow for exclusion of individuals based upon fear, speculation, or stereotype about a particular disability or persons with disabilities in general. This prohibition is both in housing, under the Fair Housing Act and with other accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. As discussed in the comments Americans with Disabilities Act, one “cannot refuse to serve a person with a disability because its insurance company conditions coverage or rates on the absence of persons with disabilities. This is a frequent basis of exclusion from a variety of community activities and is prohibited by this part.” See 28 C.F.R. § 36.202.
Turns out that the least of Abbot House Condominium’s worries should have been whether Rachel Siler would not be able to get around in her wheelchair and would injure herself. Maybe instead of assuming she was an invalid who sleeps with her personal assistant, the Condominium Board should have started with the premise that she had a job, a life, and a passion for helping others. The real liability was the failure to acknowledge Rachel Siler as the die-hard disability advocate who works to help others destroy attitudinal barriers and harmful stereotypes.
By: Lesly Lopez
Extended Medicare Coverage
For Working People with Disabilities
As long as your disabling condition still meets our rules, you can keep your Medicare coverage for at least 8 ½ years after you return to work. The 8 ½ years includes your nine month trial work Period.
Your Medicare hospital insurance (Part A) coverage is premium-free. Your Medicare medical insurance (Part B) coverage will also continue. You or a third party (if applicable) will continue to pay for Part B. If your Social Security Disability Insurance cash benefits stop due to your work, you or a third party (if applicable) will be billed every 3 months for your medical insurance premiums. If you are receiving cash benefits, your medical insurance premiums will be deducted monthly from your check.
Continued Medicaid Eligibility (Section 1619(B))
For beneficiaries receiving SSI
One of the biggest concerns SSI beneficiaries have about going to work is the possibility of losing Medicaid coverage. Section 1619(b) of the Social Security Act provides some protection for these beneficiaries. To qualify for continuing Medicaid coverage, a person must:
This means that SSI beneficiaries who have earnings too high for an SSI cash payment may be eligible for Medicaid if they meet the above requirements. SSA uses a threshold amount to measure whether a person’s earnings are high enough to replace his/her SSI and Medicaid benefits. This threshold is based on the:
If an SSI beneficiary has gross earnings higher than the threshold amount for his/her state, SSA can figure an individual threshold amount if that person has:
The state of Florida 2016 annual threshold amounts for disabled and blind beneficiaries is $30,566.
Other Health Insurance Options for People with Disabilities
Medicaid Share of Cost or medically needy from Department of Children and Families(DCF)
In Florida, the Medicaid Share of Cost program is a type of health insurance for the medically needy. These are people who make too much money to qualify for regular Medicaid, but not enough money to pay for their healthcare needs. They meet all of the standard Medicaid eligibility requirements except the income requirement.
The day your healthcare expenses for the month exceed your share of cost, your Medicaid coverage begins. From that day until the end of the month, you have full Medicaid coverage. You don’t actually have to pay the healthcare expenses used to reach your share of cost. You just have to owe that much. When Medicaid coverage begins, not only does Medicaid pay for your healthcare expenses for the rest of that month, it also pays for the expenses used to meet your share of cost that month. If you choose to pay those expenses yourself, they’ll still count toward meeting your share of cost, but you won’t be reimbursed by Medicaid for what you’ve paid. To apply or for more information visit www.myflorida.com/accessflorida.
Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) through? the Market Place
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law on March 23, 2010. Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, the law requires all Americans to obtain health care coverage through an employer, an individual health plan or programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, or Children’s Health Insurance Program (Florida KidCare) unless they meet an exemption. Individuals who do not meet an exemption and fail to obtain coverage may be subject to a tax assessment.
On Oct. 1, 2013, the federal government opened the Marketplace where individuals can compare and shop for health care coverage. Each year an open enrollment period will take place for individuals who are seeking Marketplace coverage. Medicaid and Florida KidCare enrollment takes place year-round. If a person applies at the Marketplace and is found potentially eligible for Medicaid or Florida KidCare, their application will be sent to the appropriate agency for processing. The ACA also provides cost sharing and tax credits to assist low-income qualified individuals in purchasing health insurance through the Marketplace.
Community Health Centers like CHI (Community Health of South Florida Inc.)
CHI is a nonprofit health care organization providing affordable quality primary and behavioral health care services to the residents of rapidly-growing South Florida. CHI operates 11 state-of-the-art primary care centers and 31 school-based programs. All centers offer quality comprehensive primary and behavioral health care services. Our physicians are board certified or board eligible. Additionally, CHI is accredited by the Joint Commission and is accredited as a Level 3 Patient-Centered Medical Home by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). CHI offers a “one-stop-shop” model where the organization and delivery of quality services are seamless, affordable, accessible and culturally sensitive. For more information visit their website: http://www.chisouthfl.org/about-us/.
If you are an SSI or SSDI beneficiary and need an individualized analysis of your situation please contact the Community Work Incentives Coordinator or benefits planner in your area. Please check the SSA Website for more details: http://choosework.net.
By: Lorinda Gonzalez
“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” ― Isaac Asimov
Deaf people can’t dance. Blind people don’t like art. People in wheelchairs can’t have sex. These are just a few of the stereotypes and misconceptions that are common trains of thought about individuals with disabilities. Many people assume all sorts of falsehoods that are, in fact, not true! Such assumptions can lead to extremely serious mistakes in judgment—and lead to missed opportunities to engage with a group of wonderful people. In order to break through these stereotypes and misconceptions, we can start by having an open mind and acknowledging that no two people are exactly alike.
Deaf to Dancing – Breaking Barriers One Step at a Time
Nyle DiMarco, an American model and actor, showed the public that a deaf person could not only dance, but win the infamous Dancing with the Stars Mirror Ball. He was paired with professional dancer Peta Murgatroyd, who had no experience whatsoever with working alongside a deaf person, nor did she have any training in sign language. Interestingly, as the show progressed viewers saw the couple peel away stereotypes one week at a time by showing America that yes … a deaf person can dance and dance well! During the ninth week of competition, the couple decided to show viewers exactly what it was like for DiMarco to dance without sound. During a powerful Paso Doble dance series, DiMarco performed 1/3 of a minute to this lively style of dance modeled after the drama and movement of the Spanish and Portuguese bullfight. These few moments replicated the way DiMarco experiences dance; with no sound, yet high energy and passionate emotion. His success on the show broke barriers and brought us one step closer to breaking the many misconceptions the deaf community faces on a daily basis.
Good Sex with Any Body – Dr. Sheypuk
The way people with disabilities are viewed related to sex and intimacy is riddled with stereotypes and misconceptions of inadequacy. Asexual. Not able to have sex. Not able to have good sex. Can’t be a wife. Can’t be a mother. Can’t be a good mother. Weak. Infertile. Can’t be a good father. All of these and more are inaccurate patterns of thought that challenge equality and make it an unfair playing field for individuals with disabilities. Dr. Danielle Sheypuk is a Clinical Psychologist in New York City, who specializes in socialization and sexuality amongst individuals with physical disabilities. According to Sheypuk, “Societies misconceptions and inaccurate assumptions are the largest obstacles we face in this area with a disability, and let me tell you…it’s the size of Mount Everest.” There are hundreds of different disabilities and even more variations making each person completely different from one another. Through her public appearances and private practice, Dr. Sheypuk is initiating a new trend of accepting that people with disabilities are in fact capable of having healthy, active, and mutually enjoyable intimate relationships. Her work has caught the public’s eye, as she’s been interviewed and featured in Fox News, Elle Magazine, Daily Mail, The Guardian, and presented a Ted Talk.
Personal Thoughts – Don’t Assume, Just Ask!
I have found that some of my relationships were more open and honest while others were closed off and full of assumptions, since my suitors varied in their previous experience with a person in a wheelchair. The key to the most enjoyable of my experiences has been open and honest communication. I always encouraged them to ask me any questions that may pop up rather than assuming there was anything we couldn’t do. This same piece of advice goes beyond relationships and can also be used as a way of integrating individuals with disabilities into all societal activities. This is the first step in eliminating misconceptions and combating stereotypes surrounding disability.
 Nyle DiMarco and Peta Murgatroyd, DWTS Season 22. Retrieved from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-3609242/Peta-Murgatroyd-celebrates-DWTS-win-Nyle-DiMarco-GMA-Erin-Andrews-let-pregnancy-news-slip.html
 Dr. Sheypuk TED Talk. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7PwvGfs6Pok
Some children with autism, developmental or intellectual disabilities may wander off without any comprehension of possible danger. This might include running off from adults at school or in the community, leaving the classroom without permission, or leaving the house when the family is not looking. While most children are drawn to water, many autistic children seem even more fascinated by it — and they’re also fearless.
On April 29, 2012, Hannah Sackman, a seven year old Autistic little girl drowned when she eloped from a housing development at military housing in Fort Gordon. When Hannah’s mother was concerned with the size of the fens and the locking mechanism of the fence, she asked the management company if she could install additional locks on the doors that were higher up and out of Hannah’s reach. The house had three exterior doors and all of them had a locking mechanism on the knob and a dead-bolt – both of which could be unlocked from the inside with a simple twist and without using a key and Hannah’s mother was concerned she would figure out how to open them. In response to her request, the management said, “no, it was against policy” and would damage the doors. In 2013, Hannah’s parents sued the housing manager under the Fair Housing Act for the death of their daughter, and the case settled for an undisclosed amount in 2015.
What happened to Hannah Sackman is not unique, and the Fair Housing Act requires housing providers allow persons with disabilities or those associated with them to modify the premises if the modification is necessary for the person with a disability, and is done at the expense of the person with a disability. For residents of public housing or other housing that is federally funded, the modifications must be done at the expense of the housing provider. These modifications can be as simple as a lock on a front door, or grab bars in a shower; or as complicated or expensive, such as a pool lift, or installing ramps or sidewalks.
Kim Johnson came to Disability Independence Group because she was afraid to live in a home that would not be safe for her daughter. Kalia is a 10 year old girl who lives with Fabry disease, which is a rare genetic disorder. Along with a developmental disability, Kalia also suffers from episodes of pain, is legally blind, hard of hearing, and problems with her gastrointestinal system and a cecostomy. She requires twice daily flushing of her stoma which takes hours and hours of time. Kalia is a runner, and whenever she has a chance, she tries to escape. She knows how to unlock doors and turn handles.
In March of 2016, Kim was looking for a new rental home in Largo, Florida and found
perfect home. During the showing of the home and throughout the leasing process, Kim and Kim’s Mother, Donna, spoke with the leasing agent, and explained how urgent it was that they move and the needs of Kalia’s disability. Then, with the help of Donna, Kim entered a lease for the home. After signing the lease, the leasing agent, instructed Kim on the use of the front door lock. At that time, Kim said that she would need to install a chain lock on the door to keep Kalia inside since she has a tendency to elope. As with Hanna Sackman’s mother, Kim was concerned with the locking mechanism and wanted a mechanism that was higher up and out of Hannah’s reach.
The leasing agent refused. Kim explained that a that the chain lock was the most reasonable modification asserted her rights under the Fair Housing Act, in order for her daughter …”to be able to have an equal opportunity to have safe access to the majority of the home.” The leasing agent and owner refused to allow Kim to install a higher locking mechanism, as they believed that a chain on the door would damage the door. Then the lessor refused to return the money Kim spent on the home, and refused to allow her to find another home that would be suitable for Kim and her daughter.
Reasonable modification in housing is the law. A landlord cannot legally deny a reasonable modification to a home. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued joint guidance on the requirements relating to reasonable modifications under the Fair Housing Act.
Adding a chain lock to the front door is the most reasonable, most effective modification given K.J.’s disability. The chain-lock modification is the most reasonable modification because the chain lock would be out of K.J.’s reach and would successful prevent K.J. from eloping. Pursuant to HUD’s guidance, adding a chain-lock to the front door is necessary because the other suggested modifications will not be effective. By denying Kim and her daughter Kalia an accommodation, this landlord denied them a safe home, solely due to Kalia’s disability.
 Joint Statement of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice: Reasonable Modifications Under the Fair Housing Act (March 5, 2008), http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/disabilities/reasonable_modifications_mar08.pdf (last visited May 10, 2016).
By: Matthew Dietz
Unless the housing facility is a qualified 55 and over housing development, a housing provider cannot have rules that treat children differently, and less favorably than adults. When the US Congress amended the Fair Housing Act in 1988, it prohibited housing practices that discriminate on the basis of familial status.When it amended the Act, Congress recognized that “families with children are refused housing despite their ability to pay for it.” In addition, Congress cited a HUD survey that found 25% of all rental units exclude children and that 50% of all rental units have policies that restrict families with children in some way. The HUD survey also revealed that almost 20% of families with children were forced to live in less desirable housing because of restrictive policies. Congress recognized these problems and sought to remedy them by amending the Fair Housing Act to make families with children a protected class. So any rules, that do not have a legitimate safety justification, cannot indicate a “preference, limitation, or discrimination” against children under the age of 18. This includes rules that prohibit children from common areas in the facility with or without supervision, or limit the facilities of the housing development to adults. All rules must apply to children and adults equally, and cannot solely target children’s behavior.
If rules have a legitimate safety rationale, then such rules may be legitimate. But, again rules such as all children under sixteen must be supervised by an adult does not have a safety rationale, but a discriminatory basis against loud teenagers. On the other hand, a fifteen year old at a gym may injure him or herself on free weights without having supervision.
Over the past fifteen years, I have had several cases involving children who were not permitted to go to the summer camp of their choice, or were segregated in the summer camp because of the child’s disabilities. A summer camp, like any other public accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, must provide reasonable accommodations for campers with disabilities, and must not segregate them from other students. Camps operated by governmental entities or colleges have a broader duty to accommodate campers with disabilities than some private entities that do
not have the same resources as a governmental entity. Examples of situations which I have encountered over the years are as follows:
Parents can choose to send their child to a segregated camp, because some camps may provide special skills or advantages for children with disabilities, but the choice of going to a specialized camp is a choice, such as camps where all children are deaf.
However, all children may not be able to go to integrated camps. For example, there may be children with developmental disabilities or intellectual disabilities who would not be able to care for themselves at a sleep-away camp, and it would be a fundamental alteration of the camp’s programs to develop a program for one child’s disability. Further, if a child is dependent on mechanical supports, a camp would not be required to hire medical personnel to accommodate medically complex children. For these kids specialized camps are a phenomenal way to get out and enjoy the community. For example, Nicklaus Children’s hospital operates the VACC camp for technologically dependent children which includes swimming, field trips to local attractions,campsite entertainment, structured games, “free play”, to promote family growth and development while enhancing these kids’ self-esteem and social skills.
Last year, we represented a mother who had a child who lived in HUD-subsidized low-income housing. Asthma is often triggered by inhalation of air particles that contain allergens such as pollen, mold spores, dust mite droppings and animal dander. Air conditioners contain filters that collect and store these particles, keeping intake to minimum. Air conditioning also helps eliminate humidity on hot Florida nights which enables mold and algae to grow much more rapidly than it could if it were living in dry air. Some children and adults suffer from asthma to the degree that not having air conditioning may result in serious harm and hospitalization. Requesting to install an air conditioner unit in a home or apartment would be a reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability.
According to the Fair Housing Act, a tenant with a disability can request a reasonable modification. According to HUD Guidance, “A reasonable modification is a structural change made to existing premises, occupied or to be occupied by a person with a disability, in order to afford such person full enjoyment of the premises. Reasonable modifications can include structural changes to interiors and exteriors of dwellings and to common and public use areas.” Under the Fair Housing Act, a housing provider must permit the modification, the tenant is responsible for paying the cost of the modification. If the housing provider is a public housing authority or a housing provider that receives federal financial assistance, the modification must be paid for by the housing provider unless providing the modification would be an undue financial and administrative burden.
Another example modifications can be a pool lift!
Also, under the Fair Housing Act, persons with disabilities can ask for “reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford … person(s) [with disabilities] equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.” So when a person is required to use water wings, floats, special swimming devices, they can do so. In order to request an accommodation, the person needing an accommodation should ask the housing provider, and if the disability is not obvious, then the person may need to obtain verification from a doctor, therapist, or any other provider verifying the disability and need for the accommodation.
In addition, “no dogs allowed” rules do not apply to service or emotional support animals, where their presence is necessary for the person with a disability equal use and enjoyment of the premises. The Fair Housing Act and the ADA does not override public health rules that prohibit dogs in swimming pools. However, service animals must be allowed on the pool deck and in other areas where others are allowed to go.