Disability Rights Texas Success in Case Leads to Housing Authority Changes

Posted on

January 22, 2012

Edie Surtees
Communications Director

HOUSTON — A recent settlement reached requiring the Houston Housing Authority (HHA) to re-instate housing assistance and pay back rent for one woman in the deaf community benefits many others as well. That’s because the settlement brings systemic changes in the HHA’s effective communication and interpreter policies.

Lillian Gallow experienced numerous difficulties obtaining an American Sign Language (“ASL”) interpreter when she needed to effectively communicate with the HHA. In one instance, the authority’s lack of provision of an interpreter led to a miscommunication that terminated her housing voucher. She contacted Disability Rights Texas (DRTx), the federally designated legal protection and advocacy agency for Texans with disabilities, about her case.

DRTx Attorney Christopher McGreal filed a housing discrimination complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on Gallow’s behalf alleging that the HHA discriminated against her when they failed to provide her an interpreter at an important hearing and instead used her minor daughter in order to communicate with her. The housing authority eventually offered Gallow another hearing in which they provided an interpreter at the HHA’s expense. DRTX represented her at the hearing.

DRTX’s representation at the new hearing led to Gallow’s housing assistance being re-instated and back rent being paid by the HHA to her landlord. Additionally, the HHA is now required to inform employees of its policy to provide interpreter services to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing and to inform new voucher holders of their right to request reasonable accommodations, including interpreters. HHA also promised to only use qualified interpreters in the future.

“DRTx utilized this opportunity to compel the housing authority to make larger scale changes so that all individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing are treated fairly as required by law,” said McGreal. “Our hope is that the systemic changes made to HHA’s effective communication and interpreter policies because of the settlement in this case will prevent future occurrences of similar situations.”

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Disability Rights Texas (previously named Advocacy Inc.) is the federally designated legal protection and advocacy agency (P&A) for people with disabilities in Texas. Its mission is to help people with disabilities understand and exercise their rights under the law, ensuring their full and equal participation in society.