Holyoke, MA asked in Civil Rights, Civil Litigation, Constitutional Law and Municipal Law for Massachusetts

Q: Does a resident have to prove a hardship for a disability exception request to a local regulation (Massachusetts)?

Town has a dock permitting program (for Massachusetts owned lake) requiring dock be 25 ft from property line extended out into the water. Disabled resident has asked for exception to be closer to property line due to clear disability and related to ease of access to their dock over terrain/sand. Permitting program allows for 'certain' exceptions, disability not being one specifically named. Commission asked resident to prove their hardship related to their disability. Does the resident have to PROVE a hardship that may or may not generate an arbitrary level of satisfaction of proof by an uninformed and resistant commission? Thanks for any guidance.

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Consumer Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: In Massachusetts, when seeking a disability exception to local regulations, such as those related to dock permitting, it's often necessary to demonstrate how the exception is directly linked to accommodating your disability. This typically involves showing a specific need that arises from the disability, which, in your case, is related to easier access to your dock due to the terrain. The requirement to "prove" hardship can indeed be part of the process, though it may feel burdensome.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and local laws aim to ensure that individuals with disabilities receive reasonable accommodations. However, the process to secure these accommodations can vary widely by jurisdiction and specific circumstances. When a local commission asks for proof of hardship, they are seeking to understand the direct connection between your disability and the need for the exception you're requesting. This is often to ensure that the accommodation is necessary and justifiable, rather than arbitrary.

If you find the commission resistant or feel they lack understanding of your situation, it may be helpful to provide detailed information or documentation from healthcare providers that outlines the necessity of the exception due to your disability. Legal advice from an attorney familiar with disability rights in Massachusetts could also be beneficial, as they can offer guidance on how to navigate the process effectively and advocate on your behalf. Remember, the goal is to secure an accommodation that addresses your needs, and sometimes, navigating these processes requires persistence and clarity in communicating your specific situation.

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