June 25, 2014
Rhoades, Deputy City Attorney, Consumer Protection Unit
Monica City Attorney's Office
Consumer Protection Unit of the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office has
announced the launch of a new website for tenants with disabilities and their
landlords. The website will compile 50 real-life stories of accommodations and modifications that can be
made to improve access and enjoyment of housing for tenants with
disabilities. The Nifty Fifty already has ten tenants’ stories uploaded, and by offering a
submit-your-own-story feature to viewers, the City will add 40 more by National
Fair Housing Month in April 2015.
Consumer Protection Unit (CPU), which accepts complaints for housing
discrimination based on race, religion, disability and other protected classes,
began to notice in 2012 a surge in disability cases, especially those in which
a disabled tenant needs a change in the building’s rules or a modification to
the unit. The CPU also noted that online resources for these housing issues—commonly
referred to as reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications—were
scattered across the Internet and did not include real-life examples.
consulting with the City’s Disabilities Commission, the CPU decided to create
an online resource
accessible from smartphones and personal computers.
week in Santa Monica and all over California, tenants and landlords are coming
up with inexpensive and nifty solutions to accommodation problems,” said Deputy
City Attorney Gary Rhoades. “But also every week, other tenants and landlords
are looking for information and examples to help them reach a resolution.
By providing The Nifty Fifty free and online, we are putting the many
real-life solutions to work for everyone.”
Monica tenant Juditte Erki says she could have used a website like The Nifty
Fifty when she had a reasonable accommodation issue with her
landlord. Erki is a
wheelchair user who had been parking her modified, ramp-equipped van in the
same space at the Sea Castle Apartments for more than five years. Her
parking space was sized and marked for accessibility to wheelchair-users, and it is the only type of parking which Erki can
safely use. However, the Sea Castle
changed the entire parking garage to a valet-only area. The Sea Castle
management notified Erki that she must either park in a city parking lot next
door (where accessible parking is first-come, first-served) or purchase valet
services at the unaffordable rate of $150 a month. Erki could not find any
resources to help request an accommodation to the new valet policy, so she
turned to the CPU for help.
Nifty Fifty is very helpful,” said Erki, “The website tells the stories of
tenants who faced a problem in their home like I did, and then it shows you
ways you might deal with it. While the CPU wrote a letter to Sea Castle
for me, and I got to keep my parking space, the next time I have an issue, I
will check The Nifty Fifty first before I call.”
site’s content includes
the following features:
annually renewed list of 50 recent stories.
hyperlinked summaries with detailed stories on a separate page.
“like” button so that users can show which stories are their favorites.
on how to request an accommodation.
to other housing and disability resources.
legal analysis of each example.
of the all-time top five California court decisions involving reasonable
accommodations or modifications.
Nifty Fifty was built
from the ground up by the City of Santa Monica’s Web Development Team,
including Keith Kurtz, Behrang Abadi, and Kegan Maher.
Development Team designed and coded The Nifty Fifty so that users of all
abilities and disabilities have equal access to information and functionality,”
said Rhoades. “And the site looks just as great on a smartphone as it does on a
desktop or laptop.”
Nifty Fifty’s design
features include the following:
HTML: Built with semantic HTML, the Nifty Fifty’s pages, links, menus, headings
are structured in such a way that it “makes sense” to a machine and so the
document “flows” naturally from the top to the bottom, with appropriate use of
headings, subheadings, lists, paragraphs, etc. This also assures
compatibility with devices that persons with disabilities use, such as
screen-reader or text-based browsers, and that the content is more easily
translated to another language (Spanish, etc.) by a machine/program.
tags: Every image on The Nifty Fifty contains an “alt tag” or
“alternative tag." Alt tags to indicate the
subject of the image are displayed for users that: choose to have images turned
off (to save bandwidth, etc.), use assistive technology like a screen-reader,
or use a text-based browser.
Enhancement: To keep options open for a text-based browser or a screen reader, The
Nifty Fifty can function without the styles (fonts, colors, backgrounds,
additional capabilities are present (such as when the user has a browser with
additional features such as color and background.
First Responsive Design: The Web Development Team designed the site to work no
matter what size a user’s screen is, with the additional focus on designing for
a mobile (e.g. phone or tablet) experience first, and then simply
applying changes as the screen width increases. This ensures all users, on all
devices now and in the future will be able to browse the site. The site
wasn't created for any specific device – the design is based purely on the
amount of screen real-estate available on the device browsing the site.
Nifty Fifty’s public
launch is on June 26, 2014 and can be found at reasonableaccommodations.org
(do not add “www”) and it can also be accessed from the CPU’s website at smconsumer.org.
The CPU invites all to browse the site, click “like” on the stories, and
forward a link to anyone else who might be interested. Readers are also
asked to submit their own success story and vote for their favorites. The
providers of the two stories with the most votes by February 1, 2015 will be
invited to speak at Santa Monica’s April 2015 fair housing workshop, with their
expenses for the trip covered.