ACLU and Disability Rights Groups Urge Congress to Reject Attempt to Gut Law that Ensures Accessible Housing

October 28, 1999 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON–Housing developers requested today that Congress pass a bill that would lift accessibility requirements for recently constructed housing. The move was harshly criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Paralyzed Veterans of America and disability rights activists.

“Companies who broke the law by refusing to build accessible housing do not deserve a ‘get out of jail free’ card,” said Christopher T. Anders, a Legislative Counsel for the ACLU. “People who ignored the law by refusing to ensure that their new buildings were accessible should be hanging their heads in shame, not asking Congress to pass a bill that forgives them for denying housing to people with disabilities.”

The bill, H.R. 2437, was introduced by Representative Walter Jones (R-NC), and is being considered by the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution. The bill would amend the federal Fair Housing Act to exempt all housing constructed between 1991 and 1999 from requirements that new housing be accessible to people with disabilities.

Although the disability rights provisions of the Fair Housing Act were passed into law in 1988, implementation was delayed for two and a half years to ensure that builders had adequate time to learn how to comply with the requirements, Anders said.

“Passing this bill would be equivalent to telling companies that they don’t have to bother with civil rights laws like the Americans With Disabilities Act because Congress will eventually just let them off the hook anyway,” Anders said.

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