Equal Rights Center Investigation: 45% of Deaf or Hard of Hearing Encounter Housing Discrimination

August 14, 2012 at 5:41 pm Leave a comment

Press Release by Equal Rights Center, 8/8/2012

A report released today by the Equal Rights Center (ERC) found that 45% of Deaf or hard of hearing individuals who use telecommunications relay service experienced discriminatory treatment while seeking rental housing in the greater Washington, D.C. area.

“Despite technological strides and comprehensive civil rights protections, many housing providers still leave the Deaf and hard of hearing who rely on relay services to conduct daily activities disconnected,” said Don Kahl, Executive Director of the Equal Rights Center. “We have the technology to achieve equal housing opportunities for those who are Deaf or hard of hearing. Housing providers simply are not utilizing it, and that has got to change.”

More than 9 million individuals identify as Deaf or hard of hearing, and 2 million identify as having a speech impairment, many of whom rely on a telecommunications relay service to conduct daily activities necessary by telephone.  Relay services are particularly useful when seeking rental housing; prospective tenants often first contact housing providers by telephone to obtain critical threshold information about apartment availability, rental rates, and the application process.

The Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act both prohibit discrimination against relay service users with disabilities in housing-related transactions. Yet, the ERC continues to receive reports of discrimination.

To investigate these claims, the ERC conducted 100 fair housing rental telephone tests to compare the treatment of relay service users with non-relay service users.  In these tests, relay service users experienced different and more adverse treatment 45% of the time. The scope of discrimination ranged from a hang up followed by a refusal to answer calls placed immediately thereafter, to misrepresentation of availability, quotes of higher rents, differing application requirements, and none of the follow up provided to other applicants.

“When individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing are discouraged from renting an apartment through discrimination, it not only affects the physical place they call home but all aspects of life.” said Kat Taylor, Program Manager of the ERC’s Disability Rights Program. “An individual’s right to choose where he or she lives impacts employment and educational opportunities, proximity to friends and family, access to transportation, commercial and governmental services, and even personal safety.”

To download a PDF copy of the ERC’s report, visit www.equalrightscenter.org/disconnected.

For more information, contact:
Ashley White, Equal Rights Center, 202.370.3204
awhite@equalrightscenter.org

About the Equal Rights Center (www.equalrightscenter.org)

Originally formed in 1983, the Equal Rights Center (ERC) is a national non-profit civil rights organization based in Washington, D.C.  With members located in every state and the District of Columbia, the ERC works nationally to promote equal opportunity in housing, employment, disability rights, immigrant rights, and access to public accommodations and government services for all protected classes under federal, state, and local laws.

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