A housing complex in Arizona has come under fire for apparently catering to the deaf community -- too much.
Apache ASL Trails is an apartment specifically tailored for independent seniors who are deaf, but the federal government has told them they cannot discriminate against accepting residents who don't have the disability. (Image source: Apache ASL Trails)
Phoenix's KSAZ-TV reported that the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development found the Tempe apartment building guilty of discriminating against non-deaf people. It's the same government agency that spent $2.6 million to help tailor some features in the building to help deaf senior residents.
Now, the Apache ASL (American Sign Language) Trails is being required to open 75 percent of its units to non-deaf residents. This would reduce the number of units available to those with hearing impairments to 18.
"I would be devastated. I would cry. I want to stay here, we need this place," resident Rose Marie Prynce told the local news outlet.
[sharequote align="center"]"To basically say there are too many disabled people here is just nuts."[/sharequote]
According to a 2012 HUD compliance review submitted by lawyers for the company managing the building, "recipients of federal financial assistance may not discriminate against 'otherwise qualified' individuals 'solely' on the basis of disability."
In requiring the apartment to accept hearing individuals, the review states that it could negatively impact those with a hearing disability living there.
"Consequently, requiring Apache ASL Trails to accept hearing individuals will hinder the goal of fostering and preserving a sign language environment for deaf seniors for whom such placement is the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs," the lawyers with Capital Cardinal Management wrote. "With a large number of hearing residents, deaf seniors would face the same communication barriers as in the hearing world; such an ostensibly more “inclusive” setting would result in social isolation for these deaf seniors."
KSAZ has more opinions about this unusual requirement:
"To basically say there are too many disabled people here is just nuts," says Senator Jeff Flake.
"The attorneys I dealt with at HUD, I would characterize as ignorant and arrogant and much worse, they are powerful," says Michael Trailor, Arizona Department of Housing Director.
Trailor met with HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan months ago to resolve the issue.
"He looked me in the eye and said, 'If you say we have taken too long to resolve this, you are right. If you say we haven't handled this very well, you're right."
Watch KSAZ's report:
Trailor is not enforcing the federal department's requirement.
Fox News reported that the agency said it would not remove current residents but would want rooms to be filled appropriately after people vacated of their own accord.
Features to help disabled residents include video phones, wheelchair accommodation and blinking "doorbell" lights, to name a few.
This video from DeafCactusNews gives a tour of Apache ASL Trails: