Living in a nursing home or in an assisted-living facility is meant to help relieve the uncertainty of independent living for elderly individuals and persons with disabilities. However, the housing rights of nursing home residents can be violated by nursing home staff if they fail to provide reasonable accommodations for residents with disabilities. One such accommodation utilized by many Deaf residents is Video Remote Interpreting (VRI).
VRI is an interpreting system that provides a method of communicating with those who primarily use American Sign Language (ASL). VRI uses videoconferencing technology to provide the services of a qualified interpreter to people at a different location. If requested by someone with a disability, the VRI system should be provided when there are no on-site interpreters available. Failure of a nursing home to provide this reasonable disability accommodation is illegal under the Fair Housing Act.
Across the country, however, we’ve seen that Deaf residents in nursing homes are not getting the support they need. In November 2015, the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) in New York filed two federal fair housing lawsuits against operators of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. FHJC alleged that the care facilities refused to make ASL interpreters available to Deaf residents at dozens of facilities, violating the Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act can protect nursing home residents from being discriminated against and ensures their right to reasonable accommodations, such as using VRI.
Nursing homes and assisted-living facilities should be safe places that elderly and disabled individuals can go to live when their life circumstances require it. Operators of nursing homes must ensure that their facilities are acting in accordance with the housing rights of their residents. If you or someone you know has been denied a reasonable accommodation or modification, contact GNOFHAC at (877) 445-2100 for free help.