FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 11, 2021
Contact: Izzy Woodruff | 202-898-1661 | IWoodruff@nationalfairhousing.org
National Fair Housing Alliance Reaches Agreement with Spectrum to Expand Housing Opportunities for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Seniors
Spectrum property Palmilla Senior Living was sued by NFHA in May 2020 for violating the fair housing rights of deaf or hard of hearing individuals
Washington, D.C. — Today, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) announced a settlement agreement in its lawsuit against Palmilla Senior Living, a New Mexico-based senior living facility managed by a subsidiary of Colorado-based Spectrum Retirement Communities, LLC (Spectrum). Spectrum is the country’s 23rd largest senior living provider, and the agreement announced today will open up the company’s 6,500 units to deaf or hard of hearing seniors.
In October 2018, NFHA began using testers to investigate Spectrum senior living facilities in New Mexico. They made phone calls and visited the facilities in person to determine if American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters would be made available to a deaf resident for on-site medical assessments and other important events. The testers were told that the Palmilla facility would not provide ASL interpreters. Given that 50 percent of people older than 75 have difficulty hearing and more than 50 percent of individuals who self-reported as “deaf” or “functionally” deaf were 65 or older, these actions by Palmilla employees were troubling, and they violated the federal Fair Housing Act’s requirement that housing providers give reasonable accommodations, free of charge, to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
“By failing to offer the necessary accommodations for prospective deaf residents, Palmilla was excluding people with disabilities from full and equal access to its residential and health care services and programs, which perpetuates the harms of disability discrimination,” said Lisa Rice, NFHA’s President and CEO. “We are glad to have reached an agreement that ensures enforcement of the federal Fair Housing Act, and we look forward to working with Spectrum and other housing providers to continue advancing equal housing opportunities for deaf or hard of hearing seniors.”
The settlement announced today requires Spectrum to develop and maintain an affirmative non-discrimination policy and a reasonable accommodation request form; update marketing and communications materials to make clear that the company’s facilities accept persons in protected classes; and conduct trainings about legal issues concerning persons who are deaf or hard of hearing, or in other protected classes. While NFHA’s allegations of discrimination by Spectrum were filed against its New Mexico facility, the settlement agreement will be implemented nationwide. The defendants must also pay $160,000 in damages.
NFHA’s work on this case was made possible in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. NFHA was represented by Andrew Rozynski of Eisenberg & Baum, LLP.
Founded in 1988, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) is a consortium of more than 200 private, nonprofit fair housing organizations and state and local civil rights agencies from throughout the United States. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., NFHA works to eliminate housing discrimination and ensure equal housing opportunity for all people through leadership, education, outreach, membership services, public policy initiatives, community development, advocacy, and enforcement.