Let’s talk about Equal Access

Posted on March 22, 2012 in Advocacy, Housing, Relevant Laws, Topic of Interest, Videos | Short Link
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Hello, my name is Terry McDaniel. I am the acting director for the Pittsburgh Office of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, which some people know as PHRC.

We are Pennsylvania’s state civil rights agency.

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission has a two-part mission: to enforce Pennsylvania’s nondiscrimination laws and to raise public awareness of what equal opportunity is and how to achieve it.

We let people know what their legal rights and responsibilities are under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act and Pennsylvania Fair Educational Opportunities Act.

AND we give people a place to turn when their rights have been violated.

In Pennsylvania, EVERYONE has a right to live, work and learn free from illegal discrimination. These are basic civil rights.

In general, illegal discrimination happens when someone denies you an opportunity for work, education, housing, or access to public places and services based on several factors.

One of those factors is disability. This also includes being regarded as having a disability, being related to someone with a disability and being a user or trainer of a support or guide animal for a disability.

Illegal discrimination can also include offering someone unequal terms or conditions for work, education, public services or places, buying a home or commercial property, or living in a home.

For example, if you cannot get into a public place to enjoy a service, or if someone charges you more for their services or refuses to make a reasonable accommodation for your disability.

If they harass you because you have a disability or if they won’t allow you to use a service or support animal, it may also be illegal discrimination.

There are many examples of illegal discrimination.

You can learn much more about discrimination and your rights on our website, phrc.state.pa.us.

PHRC investigates other types of illegal discrimination, but today I am going to talk
specifically about housing discrimination.

Housing discrimination includes any act of discrimination that interferes with renting or buying a home, or limits your ability to enjoy living in your
home.

Housing discrimination based on disability would include anything from unfair loan terms, to someone denying you accessible parking, to harassment by a neighbor, to charging fees for you to have a service or support animal, just to name a few examples.

Housing discrimination takes many forms. They are not always obvious or intentional.

Many times, people discriminate because they don’t know their legal responsibilities, despite the fact that state and federal laws have been in place for
decades.

Sometimes people are not aware of the special needs of someone with a hearing loss, deafness or any other disability.

They may not have encountered particular types of disabilities before, or they may not even realize someone has a disability.

Here’s where you come in. Communicating your needs to others will help them know how to work with you.

If you have made a request for a specific type of assistance, such as an interpreter or an assistive device, or if you have explained your need to be accompanied by a service animal and THEN your realtor, lender or landlord refuses your request, you should contact the Human Relations Commission.

We can work with landlords and others to help them understand their responsibilities and meet your needs.

We can also try to find an advocate to assist you through an agency like the Centers for Independent Living.

It is important to remember that you must file a complaint within 180 days of the discriminatory act.

Contact our office. We can help you file your complaint and we will formally investigate the situation. Our contact information is online at phrc.state.pa.us and at the end of this video.

If our investigation finds that illegal discrimination has occurred, we can hold the responsible party liable and take necessary steps to correct the discrimination.

This may include compensating a victim for costs of home alterations and other damages related to the discrimination. It may also include training for the responsible party so that others are not harmed in the future.

Our goal to avoid and end illegal discrimination so that everyone, regardless of their abilities, has an equal opportunity to live, work and learn in Pennsylvania.

Thank you for being our partner in this effort!

You can find more information about equal opportunity, civil rights and training for your group or business on our website, phrc.state.pa.us.

You can also call our Pittsburgh Regional Office at 412-565-5395 or for TTY users, 412-565-5711.

Or you can email us at phrc@pa.gov.

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