Brou v FEMA 06-0838

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It was inevitable in hindsight. The stonewalling began simultaneously with the Katrina floodwaters.

Immediately following Katrina Rolling Rains readers worked with FEMA, manufactured home producers, and their trade association advising on housing & infrastructure accessibility. All that was necessary to make 100% of the manufactures homes produced for Katrina survivors accessible (and Visitable) was an adjustment to the fabrication template to widen doorways to 36 inches. Simple.

Instead we have a legacy of needless suffering ending in Brou v FEMA 06-0838 providing only 5% access more than one year after the hurricane damaged a region of the US with a pre-disaster 24% disability rate.

The following information was provided by the National
Disability Rights Network.

This is a press release about the approval of the settlement in
Brou v. FEMA, No. 06-0838 in the eastern district of Louisiana,
regarding FEMA's provision of accessible trailers to Katrina and
Rita evacuees with disabilities. The full text of the settlement
is online at
http://www.fema.gov/plan/prepare/specialplans.shtm#1,
and pleadings are available from NDRN. The press release contains
the phone numbers evacuees can call beginning Oct. 10 to obtain
accessible trailers or modifications to the trailers they have.
______________________________________________________________

September 26, 2006

For further information, contact:

* Nell Hahn, Advocacy Center, (337) 237-7380 x11
* Cary LaCheen, National Center for Law and Economic Justice
(212) 633-6967

Today, the federal district court in the Eastern District of
Louisiana approved a settlement in Brou v. FEMA, a class action
lawsuit that will ensure that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
evacuees with disabilities will receive accessible FEMA trailers.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of eleven Katrina and Rita
evacuees with disabilities who lived in Louisiana or Mississippi
before they were displaced. Five additional plaintiffs were
added later.

Defendants are the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA),
the Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, the
Director of the Department of Homeland Security, and David
Paulison, the Director of FEMA. All of the named plaintiffs
needed accessible trailers from FEMA, but all were provided with
inaccessible trailers, no trailers, or were still waiting for
simple modifications to make their trailers accessible.
Plaintiffs' counsel estimates that thousands of other evacuees
with disabilities may have needed, but did not get, accessible
trailers from FEMA.

Plaintiffs are represented by the Advocacy Center, from
Louisiana; the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, from
New York; the Mississippi Justice Center; the Public Interest Law
Project, from Oakland, California; and the New York City offices
of Kirkland and Ellis LLP, a private law firm headquartered in
Chicago.

Approximately 25% of Katrina evacuees have disabilities, but at
the time the suit was filed, only 1 to 2% of evacuees from
Louisiana and Mississippi were provided with accessible trailers.
Depending upon their needs, individuals may be entitled to a
trailer with a ramp, wider doorways, more turn space for
wheelchairs, lower appliances, sinks, and cabinets; accessible
showers; shower chairs; grab bars near toilets, showers, and
tubs; and other accessibility features.

As a result of the settlement, FEMA has created special toll-free
numbers for evacuees who need accessible trailers from FEMA:

866-496-4297 (for evacuees from Louisiana)
888-294-2820 (for evacuees from Mississippi)

The phone number will be staffed from Monday to Saturday, 9:00am
to 6:00pm (excluding holidays), beginning October 10, 2006.

The settlement also provides that:
* FEMA will notify evacuees within 5 days after they call the
toll-free number of what FEMA intends to do to meet their
accessibility needs, and when it plans to do it.

* If FEMA decides that a person's FEMA trailer can be modified to
make it accessible, it must give an estimated time frame of up
to 30 to 60 days for making the modifications, depending upon
whether the modifications are standard (ramps, grab bars and
stair railings) or more complex.

* FEMA must give an estimated time frame of up to 90 days for
providing an accessible trailer, if FEMA decides to give the
evacuee an accessible trailer, or replace an inaccessible
trailer.

* If FEMA decides that an evacuee is not eligible for an
accessible trailer or modifications, it must inform the evacuee
in writing and give reasons.

* FEMA must handle complaints from evacuees with accessibility
issues. Evacuees can call the toll-free number to complain if
they disagree with what FEMA tells them it plans to do, or if
they are otherwise not satisfied. Further review is available
if hotline staff is unable to resolve the matter.

FEMA will send a letter to the last known address of evacuees who
are eligible for temporary housing and have requested or received
a FEMA trailer, informing them of the toll-free numbers, and will
send press releases and public service announcements to media
outlets in Louisiana, Mississippi, and other states where many
evacuees live.

Under the settlement, 5% of trailers at FEMA group trailer sites,
and common areas of FEMA trailer sites, must meet Uniform Federal
Accessibility Standards.

"We are pleased that FEMA has decided to meet its legal
obligation to give evacuees with disabilities accessible
temporary housing," said Cary LaCheen, a Senior Staff Attorney at
the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, one of the
attorneys for the plaintiffs. "FEMA trailers are still the only
housing available to thousands of people whose homes were damaged
or destroyed by the hurricanes." said Nell Hahn, Director of
Systems Advocacy and Litigation at the Advocacy Center, "Now,
finally, people with disabilities will have equal access to this
program."

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