Accessibility Lawsuit Targets Assisted Living Facility

By Dan Hounsell
June 4, 2021

Institutional and commercial facilities for decades have struggled to remove barriers to accessibility. While commercial office buildings and government buildings are often the subjects of efforts to remove such barriers and ensure access to operations, it is rare to find a healthcare organization accused of erecting such barriers.

A Manhattan assisted living facility is facing a federal lawsuit over allegations it discriminates against people with disabilities who use wheelchairs, according to McKnight’s Senior Living. The lawsuit, filed by the Fair Housing Justice Center against Vista on 5th Corp., is the result of an investigation that began in 2019 using undercover testers. Testers repeatedly were told that older adults using wheelchairs were not eligible for residence at the assisted living facilities because they could not “self-evacuate in case of an emergency” and walk unassisted down the stairs, according to the lawsuit. One tester reportedly was told that the self-evacuation rule was a state mandate.

FHJC said there is no such self-evacuation rule. New York state regulations since 2018 explicitly prohibit assisted living programs from denying access to anyone based solely on wheelchair use. Assisted living programs are required to make reasonable accommodations to offer equal access to wheelchair-using residents.

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