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American with Disabilities Act
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amcate posted:
I wear a mask to help my asthma, and since I would be perceived as having a disability I think I would be covered under the act. I live in NM, and have already read the general landlord-tenant laws, or at least summaries of them, and it's not clear what is meant by "materially affecting safety and health". Do any of you know where I would find information on ADA law as it pertains to this problem stated below? I have somewhat simplified it for brevity purposes.

I normally do okay with swamp coolers, and due to limited finances was living with one last summer. The fires broke out, and in addition to this, the swamp cooler was not working at all. It was over 100 degrees outside, and it took the management a month to fix the swamp cooler. Even after they fixed it, the asthma was unhappy with all the smoke from the fires. I requested to move to an apartment with refrigerated air, and claimed the situation was potentially life threatening to me as I had to take more prednisone than I ever have in a shorter time period than I ever have had, and my doctor was very worried about the adrenal glands not working. It is complicated, as the way I respond to prednisone is weird. The management stated since they fixed the swamp cooler, the apartment was safe for normal people, and therefore did not met the legal definition of materially affecting health and safey. However, in my individual case, this is not true. I was stuck between risking dying from asthma or dying from adrenal gland problems because the smoke from the fires and how swamp coolers pull in the outdoor pollution and concentrated it inside. I wanted to switch apartments as soon as possible, but management said I had to give a 30 day notice, even if my life was in danger due to an individual medical problem. Refrigerated air is better becasue it does not concentrate the outside pollution inside of the apartment like a swamp cooler does.

I waited the 30 days and hoped for the best while my blood pressure did weird things, I was getting dizzy, having coordination issues, due to the prednisone-all of which are bad signs. Now, I'm in refrigerated air. We made a verbal agreement that I would provide an air filter that is a very good filter, and would call them so their maintenance department could switch out the filter. The maintenance department recommended I not switch the air filter myself due to issues with their system. The asthma improved very quickly with refrigerated air. It's time now for the air filter to be changed, but management told me earlier this week that it was a very low priority item, and asked me why I'm bothering them with it. I got a very confused look from the woman. I tried to explain asthma, but she didn't seem to get it. I currently can not access the heater, and the low is in the teens. I went in today, spoke to someone else, who was more helpful, and requested it go from a low priority to a routine priority. I told her I did not think it was an emergency, but certainly I can't access my heater, and if I do turn it on, it adversely affects my health, and I reminded her the reason I moved was because my life was in danger. She gave a look that indicated she did not believe I could die from asthma.

So, management is ensuring the apartment is safe for normal people. However, for me, it isn't always safe. Where does the law draw the line in determining, "materially affecting safety and health", and do any of you know of any ADA resources?

Thanks.
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SolarFlareWolf responded:
oh wow, that sounds like a super frustrating situation. Your best bet for getting a personally applicable definition of "materially affecting safety and health", in my opinion, might be to talk to a lawyer. At the very least you need to find a way to educate the people who run your building about the seriousness of asthma and how dangerous your triggers are to your life. I'm not sure why anyone would think you can't die from asthma, I'm a pretty severe asthmatic myself, though I live in eastern Pennsylvania. Worse comes to worse you could threaten to sue them for endangering your life since that's exactly what they're doing. They probably won't take it seriously until you need an ambulance or threaten legal action. I'm sorry you're having such a hard time, perhaps you could get an individual electric heater until the filter is installed? Oh, you should also check New Mexico's state laws regarding disabilities, health needs, and housing protection laws. I'm sure there are extra laws and definitions for each individual state as well as the ADA laws.
 
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amcate replied to SolarFlareWolf's response:
Thank you, SolarFlareWolf, for your response and understanding.

At this point, I'm trying to read the law, or a summary of it. Having a reference for where ADA law related to my concerns is located might save me some time. I know people may not know of the reference. My finances are limited right now, and I'm also trying to set up a will and medical power of attorney, which costs money. I also don't expect anyone here to give a legal opinion.

I do know that ADA covers people with a perceived disability, which is why I think I would be covered, since wearing a mask often results in people perceiving me as having a disability. I also know ADA in general says a tenant can alter the apartment so they can access everything, but the landlord does not have to pay for it. When the tenant moves, the tenant has to pay to have the apartment reverted back.

I went back to the manager's office, spoke with the second person again, and did not threaten to sue, as I don't even know if they have violated ADA, but I put it in language of the ADA. "I have a physical impairment with my lungs. I can not access the heater due to this physical impairment. I have requested to hire someone else to modify things so I can access it, and I have offered to do it myself. However, you all have denied that. In addition, you will only do the modifications yourself with a low priority status, meaning whenever you can get to it. I currently can not access a feature of my apartment and I do not have an accomodation to access that feature, which is a heater when it's 15 degrees at night. I am concerned." They had the air filters changed in 24 hours.

Your suggestion about the space heaters is good, and I do have some. The issue comes in summer, when all I have are fans. The air conditioner uses the same air filter.

I'm also sure the same issue will come up again at some point with a landlord. I can always google "ADA landlord tenant law NM", but if someone already knows a link or reference it would save me time of going through sites or parts of sites that are not relevant. My money is limited right now for a lawyer. I have seen situations where a person has an asthma attack, was resusitated, but with severe anoxic brain injury and going to live in a nursing home. I want to be DNR/DNI, and my priority is getting the POA (power of attorney for medical care).

I've learned in my life that many are ignorant of asthma, even those in the medical field when it comes to prevention (though they may be good at knowing acute care management). I had an experience where a respiratory therapist at a hospital I was working at lectured me because I exercise. Apparently, she was not aware that asthma doctors I've seen have been fine with exercise, as long as I premedicate and have a nebulizer with me. When I told her this, however, she told me I was wrong, and that no one with asthma should exercise at all.

One of my fustrations is when people do not understand asthma. I do want to thank you for your thoughts, your suggestions, and your support. It means a lot.
 
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amcate replied to SolarFlareWolf's response:
Sometimes I get caught in jargon. I realized that people may not know what DNR/DNI means. It stands for do not resusitate, do not intubate. Sometimes even with a living will, it's not honored. Having a medical power of attorney helps to ensure it will be respected, or if it's not, that medical support will be withdrawn. I have a person who is willing to serve as a medical power of attorney, who understands my wishes and why, but I need to get the paperwork done with a lawyer, along with discussing whether doing it as part of a trust would be better. Anyway, that's what I was referring to in my last post.
 
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amcate replied to SolarFlareWolf's response:
Sorry-I also wanted to clarify what I meant when I spoke of limited money above. Your comment to talk to a lawyer is a good one as well. Initially, I'm trying to do my own research on the law. I might be able to handle it just with that knowledge. I may or may not contact a lawyer in the future in relation to these types of problems. I did the same thing with the will/trust/medical POA. I researched it a lot, hoping to go to the lawyer already being educated, and hopefully saving some of the lawyer's time, and thereby decreasing expenses. Knowledge is power, as they say.


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