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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fight for ramp an uphill battle.

Earlier this month, December 3, 2007 after I paid rent, the management at my apartment complex threw a comment over my shoulder about the ramp while I was on my way out the office. I was so angry, I don’t remember what she said. But it spurred me into action. I came home, put my keys and mail on the table, and went in search of the PrePaid Legal number they sent with the packet in November. I spoke to a female lawyer the first time. She recommended three things 1) finding a new place to live, 2) getting MHMR to fix it and 3) paying to fix the ramp myself. My answers were: 1) my lease was not up for renewal till the end of February 2008, so moving wasn’t an option. 2) I had no affiliation with MHMR. My needs were physical not mental. and 3) I wasn’t responsible for placing the ramp there so I was not going to pay to get it fixed. The complex put it in.

I did a search on the Internet trying to find an ADA number or web site. The first time I e-mailed some office located in Massachusetts. They answered back saying they had no affiliation with Texas only in their state. I located a regional office in Colorado and e-mailed them. They answered me back December 4; saying <em>The Fair Housing Act (FHA) took care of this type of thing, not the ADA. But they sent me two attachments: a joint statement from The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and The Justice Department in addition to Guidelines from the ADA on how to fix the ramp. They told me to take these papers to my landlord along with a written request to get that ramp fixed.</em> I am grateful to have an elastic memory. My sister had to write a few requests to get maintenance off their duff at her place. I drew from that. The male lawyer I spoke to said to give them 30 days from the date of that letter to get the ramp fixed any longer was too generous. I could take other legal measures if they fail to comply. For five-and-half years, they were violating the Fair Housing Act by putting obstacles in the way of fixing that ramp

Well, on December 5, I turned in my paperwork as advised by my lawyer and the ADA. I was afraid of the reaction I’d get from management. She told me she doesn’t react. I was allowed to speak freely in her office. While I could have named who was responsible for building the ramp in April of 2002, I didn’t name names because they were still on staff. I got a lot of praise for the way in which my request was written and my poise during the situation. She said I was correct in requesting safe access into and out of my apartment. And yes, they may have to redo the whole thing from scratch. She told me that she would copy and fax the paperwork to maintenance. 

On December 20, they started work on that ramp. My friend, Penny, came over to pick up my Christmas Cards for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. When I opened the door, they had coned off access to that space and made my neighbor move her car. Management told me not to attempt using the ramp while they were repairing it. If I needed anything to let them know.</p>
Here’s what they did:

According to ADA guidelines, the ramp was to be 6 feet in length from the top to bottom. It was 1 ½ feet too short. If they were to extend it any further than the required 6 feet, the complex would have had to place a rail on the ramp. It would be a liability for the complex if anyone living next door or upstairs had a young child who hurt themselves on it. They were going to remove the gulley or dip that made the ramp so steep by putting on more cement. Also according to ADA guidelines, they took the second parking spot to the right of the ramp. That way, anyone that has a van or bus with a lift has a wide enough space to raise and lower it safely.

The barrier came down December 23. My mother and sister made sure to have me test it before leaving for Christmas. I went up and down twice.

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