Help Disabled Members Participate at Special Meetings
If a hearing-impaired member in your community asks for a sign language interpreter to be present at a special meeting or at an annual meeting as a reasonable accommodation, be sure to provide one. Without a sign language interpreter, the disabled member may not be able to participate in any meaningful way at the meeting. As a result, your refusal to provide an interpreter could lead a hearing-impaired member to claim that you discriminated against him based on his disability.
Under the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), an association must reasonably accommodate disabled members. This may mean adjusting rules, procedures, or services, to give disabled members an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a home or common space. Therefore, when a disabled member asks you to provide a sign language interpreter at association meetings, treat it as a request for a reasonable accommodation and bear in mind the following:
Association pays. Under the FHA, reasonable accommodations—such as sign language interpreters—are made at the expense of the association.
No undue financial or administrative burden. Once a disabled member asks for an accommodation, you must comply with the request unless doing so would be an undue financial or administrative burden. With this in mind, it may be prudent to set up a policy requiring the hearing-impaired member to provide advance notice to the association that he will be in attendance at a special meeting or an annual meeting.
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