Despite living in an era of digital communications, many of the more than 9 million individuals who identify as Deaf or hard of hearing rely on relay services to conduct daily activities necessary by telephone. Acknowledging the importance of this means of communication, federal laws prohibit discrimination against relay service users in housing-related transactions.
Yet, in a recent investigation by the Equal Rights Center, 45% of telecommunications relay service users who sought rental housing in the greater Washington, D.C. area experienced discriminatory treatment while seeking housing. The scope of discrimination documented ranged from an outright hang up and subsequent refusal to answer calls, to misrepresentation of availability of apartments, higher rents, differing requirements, and no follow up.
The ability to have a one-on-one, real-time conversation is crucial in a number of human interactions, including the process of choosing a home. Two-way conversations can provide individuals with much more knowledge than a question and answer session over email. Potential renters may have a diverse set of questions for housing providers that require this level of real-time direct interaction. (more…)