A.M.T. knows what it is like to live in inaccessible housing. She knows what it is like to be discriminated against. And she knows what it is like to advocate for and exercise her fair housing rights, which is what makes her work as a tester for the Fair Housing Justice Center’s (FHJC) Acting for Justice program so meaningful.
A.M.T. became a tester in 2006. She learned about this opportunity through the Actors Fund, and joined the program because combating housing discrimination was a clear match to her previous experiences and interests. A.M.T. has a Master of Social Work degree and spent years working with the homeless and mentally ill. “As someone who has worked at homeless shelters, I care deeply about people being able to find and have access to adequate housing,” she explained.
A.M.T. also knows how important this work is because of her personal experiences with discrimination. A.M.T. is a person with disabilities who uses a wheelchair. She has experienced discrimination in housing in the past and has struggled to make her own apartment building accessible for people using wheelchairs.
As a tester, A.M.T. has seen these same issues of accessibility surface again and again. “It is kind of a glaring look at humanity,” she explained. “Because people know the laws and the rules around fair housing, and yet housing providers still go over those clear lines.” On her tests, A.M.T. has gone into new apartment buildings that were required to be designed and constructed to be accessible, and yet, many doorways were so narrow that she could not enter rooms in her wheelchair. She was on one test where the housing provider essentially told her, ‘Well, I am really sorry, but you will have to pay to make this place accessible yourself,’ in clear violation of fair housing laws.
On a personal level, working as a tester has impacted A.M.T. by raising her own awareness about accessibility issues and how she can exercise her rights to affect positive change. For example, since becoming a tester, A.M.T. has informed business owners in her community when she notices a feature that is inaccessible. And some of those businesses then took the necessary measures to make their buildings accessible to all people. “Being a tester has heightened my awareness and sensitivity,” she said. “I feel like I am doing something really good.”