Playhouse not covered by Americans with Disability Act

Homeowners group and family have met

jkegley@herald-leader.comDecember 10, 2011 

The Kentucky Office of the Americans with Disabilities Act will not get involved in the dispute between the Andover Forest Homeowners Association in Lexington and a family that is fighting to keep an outdoor therapy playhouse for their son, who has cerebral palsy.

Tiffiney Veloudis, the mother of 3-year-old Cooper Veloudis, said this week that her attorney had explored federal ADA guidelines to determine whether the family could keep the playhouse, which is prohibited by deed restrictions on all Andover Forest properties. The homeowners association told the Veloudis family that the playhouse was in violation shortly after its installation in April.

On Friday, ADA director Norb Ryan issued a statement saying the office found "no indication of discrimination under the ADA, it has been determined that this is not an ADA issue."

The homeowner association has said the playhouse should be removed from the yard of the Sheffield Drive home because it is prohibited by deed restrictions barring "enclosed-space structures." The family has responded that the playhouse is necessary for their son's physical therapy and is no different than the large swing sets, slides and tree houses in their neighbors' yards.

The story, originally reported by WLEX, Lexington's NBC affiliate, has since gone national, with support high for the Veloudises on social networks and An average of 1,000 people a day have joined a Facebook page called Cooper's House in the eight days since the story broke.

Since the story was published, the Veloudises and the association's board of directors have met privately. The Veloudises were asked to provide medical documentation and the board has said it will re-examine its ruling.

An "accommodation" could be granted that would allow the Veloudises to keep the playhouse under federal Fair Housing Act guidelines, the board has said. Both the ADA and the FHA make it illegal to discriminate against people with handicaps, but the FHA deals specifically with housing issues.

An ADA accommodation was never on the table, said Nathan Billings, counsel for the homeowners association. He said the ADA had made an "inquiry," but it was never investigating the issue, despite what was published in early news reports.

"The ADA is not applicable to HOAs," Billings said earlier this week. The ADA "told me no complaint had been filed and that there was no investigation."

Tiffiney Veloudis could not be reached for comment Friday, but she has said she will continue fighting for Cooper's house with the hopes of creating a bigger change than just homeowner association rules.

"People are telling me, 'Tiffiney, you should pursue it because you could bring something really good of all this,'" she said. "If it doesn't follow the Americans with Disabilities Act, then maybe it should."

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