RALEIGH · May 15, 2018 – Over 250 low income families with disabilities in four states have obtained accessibility modifications to their homes and apartments as a result of a project jointly run by Legal Aid of North Carolina and the
RL Mace Universal Design Institute. In North Carolina, the program has provided over $450,000 to assist 77 families pay for a variety of accessibility features such as ramps; accessible bathtubs, showers, and toilets; widening of doorways, and other features to allow individuals with disabilities to more easily use their homes.
In addition to the money being provided to residents of North Carolina, the program has provided over $1 million to pay for accessibility modifications for an additional 175 families in Florida, Georgia, and Texas.
Funds for the program were obtained as part of the settlement of two cases in which Legal Aid alleged that apartment complexes were not built in conformity with required fair housing accessibility standards. The parties in the cases agreed to provide funds totaling $1.89 million to pay for accessibility modifications for low-income individuals. As of April 1, 2018, the fund has provided assistance for over 100 ramps and other exterior alterations; nearly 100 accessible bathrooms, including bathtubs, showers, and toilets; and a variety of other access modifications covering kitchens, door widenings, flooring safety and grab bars. An additional 30 families are scheduled to receive the remaining funds.
Jeffrey Dillman, Co-Director of the
Fair Housing Project at Legal Aid, stated, "Adding a ramp or a roll-in shower is a big expense for anyone, and for low-income individuals, it can be impossible to save the thousands of dollars needed. We are very pleased to see that hundreds of individuals have benefited from this program."
Richard Duncan, Executive Director of the Universal Design Institute, which administers the funds, noted, "These home accessibility modifications have improved the independence and safety of individuals and have helped entire households better manage a range of daily tasks that include bathing, cooking or even just going outside. Both individuals and their care providers, whether paid or unpaid, now have safer and more functional homes. The improvements have made a huge difference in their lives."
Launched in 2011 with funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Legal Aid's Fair Housing Project is the state's only full-service fair housing enforcement organization. The Project provides legal representation to victims of discrimination, conducts undercover fair housing testing, and provides training and education programs on fair housing law to community advocates, landlords, and local government officials, among others. The Project has brought cases in federal and state courts, and initiated administrative proceedings before HUD, the North Carolina Human Relations Commission and local human relations commissions across the state. Since its founding in 2011, the Project has helped obtain over $6.6 million in relief for victims of discrimination.
The Universal Design Institute is a non-profit organization based in North Carolina dedicated to promoting the concept and practice of accessible and universal design. The Institute's work manifests the belief that all new environments and products, to the greatest extent possible, should and can be usable by everyone regardless of age, ability, or circumstance.
North Carolinians seeking information about their rights under the federal Fair Housing Act or who believe they are a victim of housing discrimination can call the Project's statewide toll-free helpline at 1-855-797-FAIR (3247). All conversations are completely confidential.
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Legal Aid of North Carolina is a statewide, nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income people in order to ensure equal access to justice and to remove legal barriers to economic opportunity. Our
Fair Housing Project works to eliminate housing discrimination and to ensure equal housing opportunity for all people through education, outreach, public policy initiatives, advocacy and enforcement. The Project is supported by grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Fair Housing Initiatives Program.
Sean Driscoll, Director of Public Relations, Legal Aid of North Carolina, 919-856-2132,
Richard Duncan, Executive Director, RL Mace Universal Design Institute, 919-608-1812,