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Young v. District of Columbia Housing Authority

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

March 12, 2014

JACQUELINE YOUNG, et al, Plaintiffs,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA HOUSING AUTHORITY, Defendant

Page 91

For JACQUELINE YOUNG, LATHEDA WILSON, DEAF-REACH, Plaintiffs: Chinh Q. Le, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, Julie H. Becker, PRO HAC VICE, LEGAL AID SOCIETY OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Washington, DC; Jennifer I. Klar, Megan Cacace, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Michael G. Allen, Ryan C. Downer, PRO HAC VICE, RELMAN, DANE & COLFAX, PLLC, Washington, DC.

For DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA HOUSING AUTHORITY, Defendant: Alex Chintella, Curtis Aaron Boykin, Frederick Arnold Douglas, LEAD ATTORNEYS, DOUGLAS & BOYKIN, PLLC, Washington, DC; Mashanda Yvette Mosley, LEAD ATTORNEY, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA HOUSING AUTHORITY, Washington, DC.

Page 92

MEMORANDUM OPINION

COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Plaintiffs Jacqueline Young, Latheda Wilson, and Deaf-REACH filed suit on May 7, 2013, against the District of Columbia Housing Authority (" DCHA" ) alleging that DCHA violated Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (" ADA" ), and the Fair Housing Act (" FHA" ) by failing to make its program accessible to people with disabilities, specifically, hearing disabilities. Plaintiffs Young and Wilson are two individuals with hearing impairments, and Plaintiff Deaf-REACH is a non-profit organization focused on increasing self-sufficiency among people with hearing loss. Plaintiffs seek injunctive and declaratory relief, as well as compensatory and punitive damages. Presently before the Court is Defendant DCHA's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Young and Wilson's injunctive and declaratory relief claims as moot, and Plaintiff Deaf-REACH's claims for lack of standing and for failure to state a claim. See Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. [17], at 1. Upon consideration of the pleadings,[1] the relevant legal authorities, and the record for purposes of a motion to dismiss, the Court finds that Plaintiffs Young and Wilson's claims are not moot and that Plaintiff Deaf-REACH has adequately pled claims under the Rehabilitation Act, the ADA, and the FHA and has organizational standing permitting it to bring these claims. Accordingly, for the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion is DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Allegations

For the purposes of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, the Court presumes the following facts pled in Plaintiffs' Complaint to be true, as required when considering a motion to dismiss. Plaintiffs Young and Wilson are participants in the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development Housing Choice Voucher rental subsidy program (" Voucher program" ) administered by DCHA. Compl., ECF No. [1], at ¶ ¶ 9-10. Both Plaintiffs have hearing impairments. Id. As participants in DCHA's Voucher program, Plaintiffs Young and Wilson must communicate with DCHA and access its services on a regular basis in order to stay in compliance with program regulations and to secure the full benefits of those programs. Id. ¶ 14. When a participant's housing circumstances change, such as when a participant desires to move or when the composition of a participant's household or amount of household income changes, the participant must communicate those changes to DCHA. Id.

Plaintiff Young has participated in DCHA's Voucher program since at least 2006. Id. ¶ 19. On repeated occasions, notwithstanding Plaintiff Young's requests for American Sign Language (" ASL" ) interpreters made ahead of time, when Plaintiff arrived at DCHA for an appointment, no ASL interpreters were present to assist her in communicating with DCHA staff in the reception area. Id. ¶ 20. Plaintiff Young has made multiple requests over several years that DCHA provide her interpreter services for appointments she scheduled with DCHA, but DCHA has either told her that no interpreter

Page 93

would be provided, asked her to bring a friend or family member to interpret for her, or assured Plaintiff Young that an interpreter would be available only to fail to provide an interpreter at the appointment. Id. ¶ ¶ 23-26. In the over five years that Plaintiff Young has been interacting with DCHA, Plaintiff has been provided an interpreter on only one occasion when a lawyer contacted DCHA on Plaintiff's behalf. Id. ¶ 27. When Plaintiff Young obtained permanent custody of her son and needed to communicate the addition to her household in order to obtain a Voucher for a larger apartment, she was unable to obtain the new Voucher " due to DCHA's failure to facilitate effective communication." Id. ¶ 34. As a result, as of the time this suit was filed, Plaintiff Young had not been able to secure a Voucher for a larger apartment and thus had not been able to live with her son. Id.

Plaintiff Wilson was selected by DCHA to receive a rental assistance Voucher in 2011. Id. ¶ 36. At that time, DCHA informed Plaintiff Wilson that she was required to attend an orientation for participants in the Voucher program in October 2011. Id. Plaintiff Wilson contacted DCHA and requested an interpreter for the orientation, and was initially told she would receive an interpreter. Id. ¶ 38. However, on the morning of the orientation when Plaintiff Wilson sought to confirm that she would indeed be provided an interpreter, DCHA informed her that an interpreter would not be provided. Id. ¶ 39. Plaintiff Wilson repeatedly attempted to reschedule her orientation, but was unable to get DCHA to commit to a date on which an interpreter would be provided for her. Id. ¶ 40. Instead, DCHA instructed Plaintiff Wilson to proceed with locating a landlord that would accept her Voucher and move into the apartment. Id. ¶ ¶ 41-42. In the spring of 2012, Plaintiff Wilson sought to move to another apartment as the conditions in her current apartment had deteriorated. Id. ¶ 44. Plaintiff Wilson repeatedly contacted DCHA to communicate her need to move to another apartment and her request to transfer her Voucher to the new apartment she had found. Id. ¶ 46. However, DCHA did not provide an ASL interpreter so that Plaintiff Wilson could effectively communicate her need to transfer her Voucher. Id. ¶ ¶ 47-50. As a result, at the time this suit was filed, DCHA had " still not informed [Plaintiff Wilson] whether it would transfer her voucher," and Plaintiff Wilson remained in the same apartment. Id. ¶ ¶ 50-51.

Plaintiff Deaf-REACH is designated by statute as an organization tasked with identifying and assisting individuals with disabilities to receive vouchers from DCHA. Compl. ¶ ¶ 11, 55. Deaf-REACH provides programs, services, and assistance to District of Columbia residents who are deaf or hard of hearing. Id. ¶ 53. Deaf-REACH alleges that its staff members " have devoted time and resources to assisting and advising clients with hearing impairments (including Plaintiff Wilson) as they attempt to navigate DCHA's programs and access its services without the interpreting services and auxiliary aids necessary for equal access." Id. ¶ 57. Deaf-REACH further alleges that " these expenditures of Deaf-REACH's scarce resources and staff time would not be necessary but for DCHA's persistent failure to comply with its equal access obligations." Id. ¶ 61.

Through these acts and omissions, Plaintiffs Young and Wilson allege that DCHA has denied them equal access and reasonable modification in violation of section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, id. ¶ ¶ 70-91; denied them equal access and reasonable accommodation in violation of ...


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