FEMA Settles Inaccessible Trailers Case
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 6, 2006
OCEAN SPRINGS, MISSISSIPPI--The Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit filed earlier this year on behalf of 11 Gulf Coast residents with disabilities that accused the agency of failing to provide accessible trailers in a timely manner after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The suit, filed February in federal court, claimed that FEMA lacked a reliable system for identifying people with disabilities, informing them of their right to accessible accommodation, accurately processing applications for accessible housing, and providing that housing as needed. Because of these problems, the agency violated the federal Fair Housing Act, Architectural Barriers Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and other federal anti-discrimination laws.
The Associated Press reported Monday that FEMA agreed under the settlement to publicize how it will help provide temporary housing to disaster survivors with disabilities; establish a toll-free telephone number for people with disabilities to call; hire a separate contractor to help survivors that have disabilities; require 10 percent of FEMA trailers to comply with Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards; make sure that five percent of trailers in group sites are accessible; and appoint a third party to resolve disputes between FEMA and individuals with disabilities.
Under the settlement, which awaits approval by a federal judge after a September 26 hearing, FEMA does not have to admit liability. The agency continues to maintain that its programs have been administered in a lawful manner.
Group of disabled residents file suit against FEMA (South Mississippi Sun-Herald)
Claire Brou, et. al v. FEMA (National Center for Law and Economic Justice)
People With Disabilities Among Hardest Hit By Hurricanes Katrina & Rita (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)