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Bill would make homeowners associations comply with disabilities act

Cooper and his mother, Tiffiney Veloudis, walk back to the family home after playing in the playhouse (background) on Monday, Dec. 5, 2011.  Cooper's sisters Ally, 4, and Jordan Wade, 22, are on the playhouse porch.  Neighbors' homes are shown behind the playhouse. Cooper Veloudis is a 3-year-old with cerebral palsy.   His parents bought him a $5,000 playhouse to aid in his physical therapy, but the Andover Forest Homeowners' Association says it violates their bylaws and it must be taken down.  There is quite a public controversy over the homeowners' association's decision.  Photo by David Perry | Staff
Cooper and his mother, Tiffiney Veloudis, walk back to the family home after playing in the playhouse (background) on Monday, Dec. 5, 2011. Cooper's sisters Ally, 4, and Jordan Wade, 22, are on the playhouse porch. Neighbors' homes are shown behind the playhouse. Cooper Veloudis is a 3-year-old with cerebral palsy. His parents bought him a $5,000 playhouse to aid in his physical therapy, but the Andover Forest Homeowners' Association says it violates their bylaws and it must be taken down. There is quite a public controversy over the homeowners' association's decision. Photo by David Perry | Staff ©2011

FRANKFORT — A state legislator plans to file legislation that would make homeowners associations comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The bill was filed in response to a Lexington family's fight with a homeowner association over whether they can keep a playhouse used in therapy for their 3-year-old son, Cooper Veloudis. The story, first reported by WLEX, Lexington's NBC affiliate, has garnered national attention and generated debate on whether private homeowners associations should have to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Rep. Richard Henderson, D-Jeffersonville, said he pre-filed the bill this week. Henderson said the bill would make it possible for families with special-needs children to have therapeutic play structures and other outdoor recreational structures needed for therapy. Henderson said the bill will ensure that the structures — such as a playhouse — will not be unsightly.

"After hearing about Cooper's case, I researched the issue further to see if the state could help," Henderson said. "I think it can and it should."

The Andover Forest Homeowners Association has told the Veloudis family that the playhouse had to be removed because it violated deed restrictions barring "enclosed-space structures." The family says the playhouse has been used as a part of therapy for Cooper, who has limited movement on the right side of his body and impaired speech because of cerebral palsy.

The family and the association have been trying to work out an agreement. The Veloudises were asked to provide the association with medical documentation to show that Cooper needs the home for therapy, 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 homeowners association board has said. The Fair Housing Act applies to homeowners associations, but the Americans with Disabilities Act, which also prohibits the discrimination of people with disabilities, does not apply to homeowners associations.

Henderson also is working with a national non-profit called Drums and Disabilities, based in New Jersey, to get similar legislation passed in Congress.

Drums and Disabilities advocates for people with disabilities such as autism, attention deficit disorder and Tourette's Syndrome.

"It's inconceivable that a neighborhood association could violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, or that it would even want to," said Pat Gesualdo, president of Drums and Disabilities. "Rep. Henderson and I believe that this could be a critical loophole in the law, so we are committed to doing all we can to see that it's closed at the federal level."

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