What to Know
- Five disabled residents have filed a federal lawsuit against the Housing Authority of Prince George's County.
- The residents say the county has refused to make their units handicap accessible and it's extremely difficult for them to do simple tasks.
- The housing authority said in a statement it "does not discriminate in its housing policies and practices."
A group of disabled residents have filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the Housing Authority of Prince George's County because they say the county has refused to make their apartments handicap accessible.
Residents in public housing told News4 that simple tasks like bathing, cooking and dressing have become huge challenges for them to perform in their own homes.
Kenneth Galloway lost both of his legs a few years ago due to complications from diabetes.
While slightly modified, Galloway’s public housing unit is not handicap accessible, according to the standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"I have never bathed in the shower. I come here to the sink and take water to my bed on my service tray and bathe in the bed," Galloway said.
For years now, Galloway has not been able to fit his electric wheelchair into the bathroom in his apartment and he said the kitchen cabinets are too high for him to reach.
"There are some modifications that could be made to Mr. Galloway’s unit that are very easy," Attorney David Prater said.
Prater is with Disability Rights Maryland, a non-profit organization that does advocacy work for people with disabilities. He represents Galloway and the four other disabled residents involved in the lawsuit.
"The housing authority has received millions of dollars over three decades in order to perform modifications to make its units accessible," Prater said. "We don’t know how they’ve been spending their money, but clearly they haven't been spending it on accessibility modifications."
Since the lawsuit has been filed, the housing authority has made some changes to Galloway's unit, providing him with a new stove that has dials on the front, rather than the back, and changing the refrigerator doors so that he can reach what is inside.
"You have to address the need of people with disabilities. You can’t opt out of it, which we believe that's what the housing authority has attempted to do," Prater said.
The house authority gave the following statement to News4:
"The Housing Authority of Prince George's County (HAPGC) has been made aware that a Federal lawsuit has been filed alleging a violation of the Rehabilitation Act, Fair Housing Act Amendments and the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). While the HAPGC has not had an opportunity to review the specific allegations, The HAPGC has a policy of complying with applicable laws regarding fair housing and ADA, which in some cases may include offering reasonable accommodations where necessary for individuals and families with disabilities. The HAPGC does not discriminate in its housing policies and practices."