Disability Rights Nation

July 6-19
From Ragged Edge's
D. R. Nation department July/August, 1998

Housing access suits pay off in Illinois

BART settles class-action suit over rapid-transit system

Visitability -- housing access -- now law in England



First nation in world to require access to single family homes
"Visitability" now law in UK

Legislation requiring new 1- and 2-bedroom homes be "visitable" passed the British Parliament in March, making the UK the first nation in the world to mandate basic access in single-family homes. The law requires an entrance without steps, a bathroom at street level, wide halls, doorways passable by wheelchairs and other elements of universal design. "What builders must ensure ... is 'visitability housing,' " according to an article in the London Times.

The Home Builders' Federation, a UK trade group, raised the objection that excessive cost would drive first-time homebuyers out of the market. "Builders will simply stop making two-bedroom houses and make three-bedroom ones instead," said a Federation spokesman (three-bedroom homes are not included in the new law).

But Parliament was persuaded by the Joseph Rountree Foundation, who built more than 400 of the homes and in a two-year study found costs to be low - no more than £200 per home - and benefits high.

"There will be direct benefits of increased convenience, accessibility and sociability for disabled people," said UK Construction Minister Nick Raynsford in the wake of the vote. "The measures will also help significantly those people who are temporarily disabled through accident or injury, the elderly and those with young children in prams and pushcarts."

The requirements will take full effect in 1999, giving the building industry time to learn accessible construction methods. For more information on the UK legislation, contact Concrete Change at their website (http://concretechange.home.mindspring.com).


Housing Access Suits pay off
Illinois Builder Ordered to Modify Existing Building; Las Vegas Developer Agrees to Settle
WASHINGTON (Disability News Service)- In late April, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Chief Administrative Law Judge Alan W. Heifetz issued the first decision that requires a builder to make an existing building accessible to people with disabilities under the provisions of the Fair Housing Act. HUD pursued the civil action against Perland Corporation of Crest Hill, Illinois, and its president and owner William Persico, on behalf of the Will-Grundy Center for Independent Living in Joliet. The Center alleged that eight ground-floor units at Meadow View Terrace Condominiums in Crest Hill were not accessible to people with disabilities.
The architectural firm of Thomas A. Buchar & Associates, Inc. of Joliet agreed to pay $1,000 in damages to the Center and put an $8,000 into an escrow fund to be made available to residents of Will County, as well as paying for future modifications to make multi-family housing accessible to people with disabilities.
"If you build housing in violation of the Fair Housing Act, we will find you and we will require you to make any changes necessary to comply with the law," said HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo in a statement issued on April 21 announcing the HUD actions.
"We are pretty excited because this is the first time a case has gone all the way to a judge's rule, and it will it establish case law," said Pam Heavens, executive director of the Will-Grundy Center.
In May, developers of a 168-unit Las Vegas condo complex agreed to pay $37,000 to settle a complaint filed with HUD by the Disabled Rights Action Committee in their ongoing push to make developers obey the Fair Housing Act's access requirements (see D.R. Nation, May/June).
Since 1989, HUD has received over 10,000 disability-related housing complaints. To file a complaint with HUD, call (800) 669-9777 (voice) or go to their website at www.hud.gov/hdiscrim.html<P>
Information © Disability News Service



BART settles class-action suit; agrees to damages


© Copyright 1998
Disability News Service, Inc.
Bay Area Rapid Transit has agreed to make extensive improvements throughout its system to ensure that riders with mobility disabilities have safe and reliable access to the BART transit system and are not be routinely subjected to "noxious" conditions. BART also agreed to pay damages equalling $750,000 - $100,000 to independent living centers in the Bay area and $650,000 in free fares to disabled riders. In the May 19 settlement of a class-action lawsuit alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, BART agreed, among other things, to fix broken elevators and keep them clean and in working order and provide accessible parking, accessible "paths of travel" through the stations and to the trains, as well as accessible phones and restrooms in over 30 stations.

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