[Read the full letter here.]
Secretary Shaun Donovan
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 7th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20410
Dear Secretary Donovan:
The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) is contacting you in your capacity as the head of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development to raise our heightened concerns about the egregious state of housing for deaf and hard of hearing individuals in the United States....
In a nutshell, your agency, HUD, is forcing deaf and hard of hearing individuals to only live according to an ideological vision of forced integration. The tragic irony is that such an ideology has punished deaf and hard of hearing individuals seeking a higher quality of life and a safer place to live and has actually resulted in the forced isolation of individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing...
In essence, most deaf and hard of hearing people who reside in public or subsidized housing live in fire-traps because the smoke alarms do not alert them visually or in other non-audible ways. Even if they do have a stand-alone smoke alarm that visually alert them, this alarm is typically not connected to the other smoke alarms in a housing complex. As a result, a deaf resident would only know of a fire in a complex if the fire was so close to their own unit, at which point, it is probably too late for the deaf resident to leave the complex.
Moreover, due to the unique communication needs of deaf and hard of hearing people, many of them exist in isolation in inaccessible housing where there is no one else to communicate with in sign language. These residents therefore experience extreme loneliness and depression, and their quality of life is deplorable.
Yet, HUD has the atrocious gall to intervene in a housing project that was designed to be a place of complete accessibility for everyone including deaf and hard of hearing people. Instead of encouraging a paragon of accessibility, HUD is forcing deaf and hard of hearing residents to live in isolation and in fire-traps where they are not only without practical fire alarms that alert them, but without access to even the most basic communications access to the community in which they live...
Specifically, we are extremely concerned that HUD is currently pressuring the State of Arizona to sign a “voluntary” compliance agreement that would prohibit an award winning housing project called Apache ASL Trails from giving preference to its state-of-the-art accessible housing units first to individuals who need those accessibility features and services provided at Apache ASL Trails once the total number of residents with disabilities exceeds HUD’s arbitrary quota of 25%. There is no statute or regulation that mandates any such 25% quota, and the imposition of any such quota is an ideological principle that ignores the reality of housing needs for many people with disabilities including deaf and hard of hearing individuals. [emphasis added] There is, however, law that requires that these individuals be given a full and equal opportunity to live in accessible housing that meets their needs.
While many of the residents at Apache ASL Trails are deaf and chose to live there because they sought out the desperately needed accessibility features of this unique complex, not all the residents are deaf. Apache ASL Trails opened in 2011 and there has never been a discrimination complaint filed against them nor have any qualified applicants been rejected by Apache ASL Trails. You do not need to be deaf to live at Apache ASL Trails...
The NAD believes that true housing equality means that individuals with a disability must be granted the freedom to choose to live in and benefit from housing that is equal to the housing available to others. We urge you to immediately halt advancing arbitrary maximum quotas and to cease denying preferences to individuals who need the accessibility features of a unit and wish to live in that unit. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or need additional information. We look forward to your response.
Christopher D. Wagner
Howard A. Rosenblum
Chief Executive Officer
Co-signed by 75 organizations for people who are deaf or hard of hearing