Letter: Persons with disabilities


To the Editor:

The article about “Mr. Landlord tells Joliet landlords about his experience with a Fair Housing complaint” missed one critical segment of any community: persons with disabilities.

In 1988, the Fair Housing Act was amended. The amendment included seven design and construction accessibility requirements for newly built multi-family complexes. There are certain provisions for renters with disabilities as well. When advocating for the passage of this law, I never dreamed that I would need to use it.

I decided to buy a condo in 1995, fulfilling my dream of homeownership. Doing so should not have been difficult. But it was. The kitchen was not big enough for my power wheelchair. Nor was the bathroom. I had no choice but to file a complaint in federal district court in the northern District of Illinois.

My case was settled in 1996. In the settlement, the builder agreed that the required access elements would be incorporated in all of his future buildings. He was ordered to establish a fund to be used by condo owners, upon request, in the previously built units in order to increase accessibly. This lawsuit was the first design and construction case to be filed in the Northern District of Illinois. From that case, massive enforcement took place in Midwestern states.

I met a couple who had their unit modified. The wife was a wheelchair user. As a result of increased access in their condo, she was able to use the bathroom independently for the first time in years. They both said it was the happiest day of their 56 years of marriage. I often reflect on that joyous couple and how my action significantly improved their lives. Housing is a right for all Americans. No one should have to go to court to ensure this right is not infringed.

Pam Heavens