Huge Suit Filed Over Apartment Access
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 20, 2004
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND--In what could become a landmark accessible housing case, a group of civil rights and disability organizations has sued one of the nation's largest developers of residential apartment complexes for violating the rights of people with disabilities under the Fair Housing Act.
The suit was filed in federal court Monday by the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and the Washington, D.C. law firm of Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll, PLLC against Archstone-Smith Trust, which owns stakes in more than 200 apartment complexes.
The Equal Rights Center, the American Association of People with Disabilities and the United Spinal Association are listed as plaintiffs in the case.
The case is being touted as the largest legal effort brought to enforce accessibility requirements of multi-family dwellings under the Fair Housing Act.
According to a press statement, the suit claims that Archstone-Smith has continued to violate the civil rights of people with disabilities in the design and construction of more than 100 apartment complexes in 18 states and the District of Columbia.
"Since 1991 the law has required developers to include basic features of accessibility in multi-family housing" said Isabelle M. Thabault, Director of the Fair Housing Project at the Washington Lawyers' Committee. "Thirteen years later Archstone continues to build apartment complexes that are difficult or impossible for persons who use wheelchairs to access. With this lawsuit we are saying it is past time for Archstone to make sure the units it builds are open to everyone, including persons with disabilities. "
Joseph M. Sellers, who heads the civil rights practice at Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll P.L.L.C., said: "Archstone might as well have posted signs saying, 'No people with disabilities wanted' at its apartment facilities."
Andrew J. Imparato, President and CEO of AAPD, added: "Accessible, affordable housing is very difficult for people with mobility-related disabilities to find in just about every major metropolitan area in this country, and when new buildings go up that aren't accessible, that just makes a bad situation worse."
"Anytime a housing facility is built which can not be accessed by someone using a wheelchair, they are damaged since the housing market remains limited to them," said James Weisman, general counsel for United Spinal Association. "Moreover, they are unable to visit friends and relatives who live in such housing."
"Equal Rights Center et al. versus Archstone Smith Trust et al." (Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll, P.L.L.C.)
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