Housing Discrimination Project settles disability complaint against Mass. complex for ramp and fees

The Housing Discrimination Project (HDP) in Holyoke, Massachusetts recently settled acomplaint of housing discrimination against a Massachusetts apartment complex. The casewas filed in federal court and settled within six months.

In September 1996, in adisability discrimination case handled by the HDP, Bertha Regish, an 89-year-old residentof Northampton, Mass., won a wheelchair ramp, modifications to her apartment and $3,500 inattorney's fees from Meadowbrook Apartments, the apartment complex where she has lived formore than 20 years.

Stroke impaired woman's mobility

Regish has used a wheelchair since suffering a stroke in 1995. In October 1995, Regishmoved into the Northampton Nursing Home. In March 1996, Regish had recovered enough tomove back into her apartment, which she shares with one of her two daughters, Annie.

The owners of Meadowbrook Apartments refused to take any action to accommodate Regish'sneed for a wheelchair in her apartment. This was despite the many years Regish lived inthe complex. Regish's other daughter, Vicki, expressed her disbelief in the DailyHampshire Gazette. "She's been here since the complex was built. She loves ithere," Vicki said.

Without proper modifications to her apartment, woman was forced to stay in nursinghome

Regish was unable to leave the nursing home because she could not get in or out of herapartment while in her wheelchair. Regish's daughters made several requests for a ramp tobe built, but received no response from the complex's owners.

After months of inaction by Meadowbrook, the Regish family filed suit in federal court.Meadowbrook's

owners settled the suit and agreed to build a ramp and make modifications to herapartment.

Joel Feldman, an attorney with HDP, told the Daily Hampshire Gazette that thedefendants at first complained that building a ramp would cost them $30,000 and would bean undue financial burden. As it turned out, the ramp and modifications to Regish'sbathroom, when completed, cost only $12,000. According to Feldman, it took "a lot ofwrangling back and forth" to get Meadowbrook to agree to build the ramp.

Complainant "glad" to go home

After the settlement, Regish said, "I only wanted to be able to live the rest ofmy life at home with Annie." She later added, "I'm glad I'm going home."