Professor at The John Marshall Law School Fair Housing Legal Clinic Says HUD Guidelines Give Persons with Disabilities Easier Access

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As the housing market rebounds, Professor Allison Bethel, director of The John Marshall Law School Fair Housing Legal Clinic in Chicago, reminds architects and builders to be aware of mandated accommodations for persons with disabilities.

As the housing market rebounds, Professor Allison Bethel, director of The John Marshall Law School Fair Housing Legal Clinic in Chicago, reminds architects and builders to be aware of mandated accommodations for persons with disabilities.

Poor compliance with federal rules that have been in place since 1991 led the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), to issue “Guidance Papers” for multi-family construction during the past several months, Bethel said. These papers set building code standards that can assist those who need special features such as wider doorways, special height for electrical outlets, grab bars in bathrooms and door handles that can be turned.

“These are simple changes, but they can make a tremendous difference to someone who has a disability. We are not just talking about people in wheelchairs. These basic accommodations can assist the elderly and others with limited mobility,” Bethel explained.

A host of regulations on accommodations are included in the federal Fair Housing Act, and HUD routinely offers updates. However, code enforcement at construction sites is limited. Fair housing testers have found that builders avoid implementing these accommodations.

The Fair Housing Legal Clinic represents renters and prospective homeowners in cases where builders have failed to make needed changes. The Clinic worked in cooperation with Access Living, a Chicago-based center for independent living, on a federal case against a Chicago-area developer who was required to retrofit units and compensate residents turned away because of their disabilities.

This year the Clinic marks its 20th anniversary. Bethel and fellow clinic staff members are working with law students on a variety of cases, including several arguing discrimination against persons with disabilities. Over the past two decades, the clinic has represented more than 900 clients who were discriminated against in violation of federal, state, county and city laws.

The John Marshall Law School Fair Housing Legal Clinic is the only law school legal clinic in the United States that exclusively handles fair housing cases. Persons facing discrimination in their housing choices because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, marital status, or source of income can contact the Clinic at 312-786-2267 for assistance.

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Marilyn Thomas
The John Marshall Law School
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