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How far do you go to accommodate disabilities?

 
 
Reply Mon 28 Mar, 2011 09:22 am
After struggling for years to control a severe anxiety disorder, Mary Jo Stevens said she finally found solace in an unusual prescription: a fluffy toy spaniel named Boo.

Stevens said her "psychiatric service" animal stymies her frequent panic attacks, often as she sleeps, by lying on her when her breathing becomes erratic.

Not everyone, though, is happy about Boo's constant presence beside Stevens at the lakefront condominium where she lives. The Edgewater high-rise has a no-dogs-allowed policy, and a manager says the building has tried to accommodate Stevens' disability by letting her keep Boo. But, Stevens said, she is supposed to hold him in a carrier in the lobby and laundry room, and use a service elevator and side doors as she comes and goes.

Stevens and her husband, Ralph, have filed a federal lawsuit, arguing that stowing Boo in a carrier defeats his therapeutic purpose. Stevens said she needs to keep him close to her body to prevent the panic attacks that she has suffered since she fractured her jaw and injured her spine in a 1999 car crash.

"My dog is a service animal. He is not a pet," protested Stevens, who said the restrictions make her feel like "a second-class resident."

But Joseph Armenio, property manager for Hollywood Towers Condominium, contends that the condo must consider other residents, who may be allergic or fearful of dogs.

"It's a matter of perception of what's unfair," Armenio said during an interview outside the two-tower complex. "She's not blind."...

Read more here

This is not one of those situations where the condo association is refusing to make any accommodations at all. Part of the resistance to making more accommodations, however, seems to be the unspoken belief that the woman's handicap isn't really much of a handicap at all, or that the dog is doing any good.

So, in this case, is the condo board doing enough to make a reasonable accommodation for this woman's disability?
 
ehBeth
 
  2  
Reply Mon 28 Mar, 2011 09:26 am
@joefromchicago,
I'd start by trying to find out if the dog has completed the AKC CGC certification.
0 Replies
 
Linkat
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Mar, 2011 09:36 am
@joefromchicago,
Like ebeth said - there has to be certain qualifications or liscence for a dog to be classified as an assistant dog. People have them for more than just blindness. If it qualified then the dog should be handled to those for the blind. If not, then I'd say what the condo association has put in place is sufficient.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Mar, 2011 09:40 am
The story doesn't mention whether the dog is certified by any association, but then Mary Jo Stevens, the dog's owner, says that her panic attacks are reduced just by having the dog near her. I'm not sure what level of training is necessary for that. Just get a clingy little dog -- which is what it appears she did.
JPB
 
  3  
Reply Mon 28 Mar, 2011 09:40 am
No, I don't think they are. If the dog is a trained service dog then he should be allowed to perform the service he's trained for. The property manager admitted it would be different if she were blind. He's simply not accepting her anxiety as a disability worthy of a service dog. I don't know that that's up to him. Interesting to hear how the courts decide.
JPB
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Mar, 2011 09:44 am
@joefromchicago,
joefromchicago wrote:

The story doesn't mention whether the dog is certified by any association, but then Mary Jo Stevens, the dog's owner, says that her panic attacks are reduced just by having the dog near her. I'm not sure what level of training is necessary for that. Just get a clingy little dog -- which is what it appears she did.


Right, a lot would depend on if he's a certified service dog and if she has medical professionals recommending such therapy. If yes, then it's a no-brainer to me.
0 Replies
 
Mame
 
  3  
Reply Mon 28 Mar, 2011 10:16 am
Well, wonder what the courts will do given this quote: "Just this month the U.S. Department of Justice issued new rules under the Americans with Disabilities Act that excluded animals used "purely for emotional support" and recognized only dogs, and in some cases miniature horses, as service animals."

I think she's being unreasonable. First, there's a 'no dog' rule in the condo, yet they've made an exception for her. Second, she only has to have it in the basket in the common areas. Big deal. How long does it take to walk down a hallway or from the elevator to the front door? Suck it up, sister.
sozobe
 
  4  
Reply Mon 28 Mar, 2011 10:43 am
I have warring impulses here, and I don't think I can choose an impulse without knowing a bit more about the situation.

Impulse 1: Opposition to the steady erosion of the extremely important and useful Americans with Disabilities Act.

Impulse 2: Opposition to the frivolous uses of the ADA that then contribute to the backlash and the weakening of the actually important parts of it.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Mar, 2011 10:49 am
@Mame,
According to the story, it certainly seems like this woman can have the dog with her anywhere in the building -- she just needs to keep it in a carrier in the common areas. But that, along with the fact that she needs to take the service elevator, makes her feel like "a second-class resident." And I guess if she has a panic attack while the dog is in the carrier she dies or something.
Mame
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Mar, 2011 10:55 am
@joefromchicago,
Yeah, like she's died during every other panic attack. She's carrying this too far. Couldn't she keep the dog in a big purse and pet it when she's feeling anxious? As long as it's not running free, I don't see what difference it makes what it's being carried in. And as for feeling like a second-class citizen, she should feel okay with those compromises given how the condo assoc. has allowed her the dog.

Why should she be able to take the dog in the common elevator if there might be someone with a recognized dog allergy in the elevator with her? Should her issues take precedence over anyone else's ? Especially when there's a RULE about it and she must have known when she bought/moved into the condo.

I mean, you can't even eat peanuts on an airplane if there's someone aboard with a peanut allergy. What if she was on that plane and whined that peanuts calmed her anxieties? She should put that person at risk?

She's waaaay over-reacting. I can't believe she found a lawyer to take this case. Which is what, anyway? What's she asking for?

Edit: She could put the dog in one of those wrap-around cloth baby carriers while she's doing the laundry. Does she really have to have this dog with her at ALL times? Even in the bathtub?? Can't she go even an HOUR without the pooch?
Irishk
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Mar, 2011 10:59 am
I wonder what she does with Boo when she goes out to eat in public restaurants, or goes grocery shopping, or goes to her doctor's office for routine exams, etc., or what would become of Boo if she had to be hospitalized?

It sounds like a type of therapy that was prescribed by her psychiatrist, and if so, then wherever she goes, little Boo will have to be accomodated. He sounds cute...and those geezers at the condo should be thankful her doc didn't prescribe a snake! Or a cow. Or a goat.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Mar, 2011 11:04 am
@Mame,
Funny you should mention peanut allergies:

EDGEWATER, Fla. -- A first-grade student at Edgewater Elementary School is struggling with a rare life-threatening peanut allergy, and it's causing a controversy among her classmates' parents.

"We're not talking about she will break out in a rash. We are talking about she will die, stop breathing," said Tracey Bailey, the mother of the 6-year-old girl. The condition affects only 2 percent of the population.

Because of the condition, first-graders at the school are required to wash their hands and rinse out their mouths to avoid bringing peanut particles into the classroom.

"I don't think my child should have to rinse her mouth out three times a day. Nine times out of 10, peanut butter is not coming out of her mouth," said Carrie Starkey, whose daughter is a classmate of the girl.

The rest ... of ... the ... story!

Whaddya think? Too much?
joefromchicago
 
  2  
Reply Mon 28 Mar, 2011 11:11 am
@JPB,
JPB wrote:
The property manager admitted it would be different if she were blind. He's simply not accepting her anxiety as a disability worthy of a service dog.

Actually, the condo board has made an effort to accommodate her disability. It's a no-pets building, yet it is allowing Stevens to keep a dog, so that's already a pretty big concession. But I agree that the property manager probably thinks that Stevens doesn't need the dog by her side all the time. As for using the service elevators, that makes sense. Stevens, however, wants to have her dog on a leash and use the regular elevators "like a regular resident," but that ignores the fact that she isn't a regular resident. If she were, she wouldn't have a dog.
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Mar, 2011 11:15 am
@joefromchicago,
I'll be interested to read how this works out.

In Ontario, reasonable accommodation means that modifications must be made to the point of bankruptcy. It's not often pushed to that point, but it is a possibility each time reasonable accommodation is mentioned.

Does Illinois allow for no-pet buildings?
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Mar, 2011 11:17 am
@joefromchicago,
I don't think that's the most salient point, though. A lot of very important and necessary provisions of the ADA could be dismissed in that way.

"Wendy Wheelchairuser wants to be able to get into her apartment building without relying on people to carry her, 'like a regular resident,' but that ignores the fact that she isn' a regular resident. If she were, she wouldn't have a wheelchair."

I think the more salient points are the severity of her disability (I can't quite tell) and whether further accommodations could be made that would make everyone happy (like Mame's purse idea -- that would seem to allow for physical contact while also keeping the dog off of the floors, or whatever the management's concern is re: having the dog loose).
engineer
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Mar, 2011 11:18 am
@joefromchicago,
joefromchicago wrote:

This is not one of those situations where the condo association is refusing to make any accommodations at all. Part of the resistance to making more accommodations, however, seems to be the unspoken belief that the woman's handicap isn't really much of a handicap at all, or that the dog is doing any good.

I'm don't read it quite that way. The manager is also trying to accomodate his other residents "who may be allergic or fearful of dogs." Is their "fear of dogs" disorder less worthy of consideration than hers? They are paying to stay in a no pets facility. It seems like the manager has made reasonable accomodations and from other postings that her condition might not be covered under ADA anyway. If a store has a primary entrance for everyone and a side entrance that is handicap accessible, does that mean those who need the side entrance are "second class citizens"? If the second entrance was materially equal to the main one, I think that would meet the requirement.
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Mar, 2011 11:30 am
@joefromchicago,
Btw, discussion of the Edgewater peanut allergy situation here:

http://able2know.org/topic/169787-1
Butrflynet
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Mar, 2011 11:30 am
I agree with the views of a Colorado Homeowner's Association lawfirm:

http://www.cohoalaw.com/covenant-enforcement-lawsuit-against-condo-highlights-complexity-of-fha-assistance-animals.html

The Chicago Tribune recently reported on a story where a woman suffering from panic attacks has brought a lawsuit against her condominium association for violation of federal law. While the story wasn’t clear on exactly what federal law she is claiming the association violated, there’s no doubt that the federal Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) is at issue.

Mary Jo Stevens requested, and was granted, an accommodation to keep her toy spaniel (named "Boo") which she describes as her “psychiatric service” animal to assist in the prevention of frequent panic attacks. The Association, which has a strict “no pet policy,” has permitted her to keep Boo with the following restrictions: (1) Boo is required to be kept in a pet carrier while in the lobby and laundry rooms; and (2) Ms. Stevens must use a service elevator and side doors as she comes and goes with Boo.

Ms. Stevens contends that these requirements make her “feel like a second-class resident.” In addition, she claims that carrying Boo in a pet carrier “defeats his therapeutic purpose . . . since she needs to keep him close to her body to prevent panic attacks. . .”

Regardless of how you feel about the position the Association has taken or the contentions of Ms. Stevens, the Association may be in a precarious position relative to the FHA. Here are some things you should know about the FHA and assistance animals:

1. The FHA makes it unlawful for any housing provider (including homeowners’ associations) to refuse “to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services when such accommodations may be necessary to afford . . . person(s) [with disabilities] equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.”

2. The FHA also prohibits housing providers from refusing residency to persons with disabilities, or placing conditions on their residency, because those persons may require reasonable accommodations.

3. The FHA recognizes individuals with “mental impairments” as having a disability which merits a reasonable accommodation. The FHA defines a person with a disability to include: (1) individuals with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; (2) individuals who are regarded as having such an impairment; and (3) individuals with a record of such an impairment.

4. The FHA recognizes “assistance animals” as a reasonable accommodation under appropriate circumstances. In fact, the use of service animals for people with mental or physical disabilities is common.

5. For purposes of the FHA, “assistance animals” are not required to be dogs or trained as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). For a more complete discussion of the differences between the FHA and ADA, see our March 14th blog posting.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a Joint Statement entitled Reasonable Accommodations Under the Fair Housing Act. The Joint Statement is an excellent overview of the FHA and issues related to reasonable accomodations.

There is no question that the FHA poses unique challenges for HOAs when processing and granting requests for reasonable accommodations. In order to ensure your association does not inadvertently violate federal law, we recommend consulting with legal counsel when addressing these matters.
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Mar, 2011 11:31 am
Modern real estate practice in Illinois By Fillmore W. Galaty, Wellington J. Allaway, Robert C. Kyle

p. 387+
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Butrflynet
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Mar, 2011 11:32 am
@Butrflynet,
If anyone has a subscription to PACER, the court documents can be accessed here:

http://dockets.justia.com/docket/illinois/ilndce/1:2011cv01657/253383/
0 Replies
 
 

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