| FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE |
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2005
| CRT |
TDD (202) 514-1888
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SETTLES DISABILITY RIGHTS CASE IN PENNSYLVANIA
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Justice Department today announced that it has reached an agreement with a continuing-care retirement community for persons 65 and older in Bucks County, Pennsylvania that restricted residents’ use of manual wheelchairs and motorized chairs and scooters within its complex, resolving a lawsuit that alleged disability-related housing discrimination.
"Persons with disabilities who choose to make their homes in retirement communities do not forfeit the protections of the Fair Housing Act," said Bradley J. Schlozman, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "Wheelchairs and motorized scooters assist individuals to live and move about independently. A person can lose the right to that aid only if he or she operates it in a way that poses a significant risk of harm."
According to the government's complaint, Twining Services Corporation (TSC), which owns the Twining Village retirement community, banned manual wheelchairs from its dining rooms until February 2005, and continued to ban motorized wheelchairs and scooters from those rooms and other public and common use areas. It also allegedly required persons who use scooters to indemnify TSC and to submit to an evaluation and training program annually, regardless of their "driving record."
The agreement, which has been approved by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, dismantles those policies. Residents of Twining Village who have physical disabilities may use mobility aids throughout the entire Twining Village complex, without the requirement for indemnification or annual evaluations. TSC will pay a resident injured by the former ban on manual wheelchairs $17,500 in damages, establish a $67,500 settlement fund for others who may have been injured by TSC’s policies, and pay the government a $7,500 civil penalty. The proposed consent order also calls for employee training, record keeping, and monitoring through the use of testers, if necessary.
"The many continuing-care retirement communities in Pennsylvania should take note today," said Patrick L. Meehan, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. "Legitimate concern for the safety of all residents must be balanced with due regard for federal civil rights."
Persons with disabilities who believe they may be injured by the violations at Twining Village should call 1-800-896-7743 to determine how they can file a claim for monetary damages.
Since January 21, 2001, the Civil Rights Division has filed 172 lawsuits alleging discrimination in housing, including 78 based on disability discrimination.### > >