§ 3604(f)(3)(A); see also Oxford House, Inc. v. Town of Babylon, 819 F. Supp. 1179 (E.D.N.Y. 1993).
In order to establish a prima facie case of discrimination under § 3604 of the Act, plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendants' actions had a discriminatory effect. Robinson v. 12 Lofts Realty, Inc., 610 F.2d 1032 (2d Cir. 1979); Cason v. Rochester Housing Authority, 748 F. Supp. 1002 (W.D.N.Y. 1990). The Act defines as discrimination the failure to reasonably accommodate an individual's disability in the provision of housing services. See § 3604(f)(3)(A).
The Government has established a prima facie case of discrimination under the Act. There is no dispute that Ms. Soper qualifies as a handicapped person under the Act or that the defendants knew of her handicap and refused to allow her to install a wheelchair ramp at her home. Unquestionably, the defendants' refusal to permit installation of the ramp has effectively denied Ms. Soper an equal opportunity to use and enjoy her home. See Secretary of HUD v. Ocean Sands, Inc., 2 Fair Housing-Fair Lending Reporter P 25,055 (Sept. 3, 1993).
The defendants have failed to rebut the presumption of discrimination by demonstrating that Ms. Soper's proposed modification is unreasonable, i.e., imposes upon them an undue financial or administrative burden. See Southeastern Community College v. Davis, 442 U.S. 397, 99 S. Ct. 2361, 2370, 60 L. Ed. 2d 980 (1971). The defendants claim that Ms. Soper's "wrap around" ramp proposal will make trailer removal and driveway parking difficult, thereby obstructing traffic using the access road. Instead, they propose an alternative design which meets all applicable laws and codes, does not block the driveway and costs no more than Ms. Soper's proposed ramp.
A. Irreparable Harm
Without a wheelchair ramp, Ms. Soper is essentially a prisoner in her home. She is afraid to venture outdoors because she was injured the last time she was assisted up her front stairs. Her ability to keep medical appointments and participate in daily activities of living is significantly restricted. The Government has made a showing that Ms. Soper will suffer irreparable harm in the absence of a ramp.
B. Possibility of Success on the Merits
The Government has clearly demonstrated a possibility of success on the merits of its claim. There is no dispute that the defendants have refused to accommodate Ms. Soper's disability by not allowing her to build the "wrap around" wheelchair ramp. Pursuant to the Act, the defendants are obligated to approve Ms. Soper's ramp proposal unless it is proven that the proposal is unreasonable. The defendants cannot accomplish this by simply tossing Ms. Soper's proposal aside and pressing for acceptance of their alternative design.
This Court is unconvinced that Ms. Soper's ramp proposal is unreasonable.
Installation of the ramp will not impose an undue financial burden on the defendants because Ms. Soper is assuming the construction costs. In addition, the defendants will not suffer undue administrative burdens should the ramp be built. The Government has stated that Ms. Soper's proposed ramp can be disassembled within three hours and will not impede removal of the trailer. This Court has also reviewed a photograph of the Soper driveway which sheds substantial doubt on the defendants' claim that installation of Ms. Soper's ramp design will impede traffic in the driveway and on the access road. In short, the defendants have submitted insufficient evidence to rebut the inference of discrimination under the Act.
WHEREFORE, the Government's motion for a preliminary injunction is granted. The defendants shall allow Ms. Soper to install her proposed "wrap around" wheelchair ramp. The issue of damages is deferred to a future date.
ALL OF THE ABOVE IS SO ORDERED.
MICHAEL A. TELESCA
United States District Judge
Dated: Rochester, New York
July 6, 1994