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The District of Columbia Housing Authority welcomes a new member of the staff who has a greater understanding of what some of the agency’s disabled customers experience on a daily basis.

Michael Pearlman, born Deaf, has been advocating for people with disabilities for most of his professional career, making him a great choice to lead DCHA’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Office.

“I’m focused on gaining the trust of our customers back,” Pearlman said through a sign language interpreter. “I am very motivated to make positive changes, both internally and externally, to make change for the people.”

After working in the federal government for several years, Pearlman grew frustrated with the lack of opportunities for people with disabilities when it came to reasonable accommodations and employment opportunities, permitted by ADA, for himself. He decided he was going to do something about it and became an advocate. In addition to serving as a commissioner on the Montgomery County Commission for People with Disabilities and starting a company to provide employment services for people with disabilities, he also worked to provide videophone and ADA training to companies.

Much of his experience translates well into DCHA communities. Pearlman intends to get a quick start about making changes, including improving the public’s confidence and DCHA’s credibility when it comes to processing reasonable accommodation requests. He also is reviewing and refining the agency’s workforce policies around reasonable accommodation requests and language access. He intends to initiate staff development training about ADA, 504, and Language Access guidelines.

“It is not a great feeling when a person with disabilities makes a request and they get ignored. Sometimes people have a lack of knowledge in this space,” he said, listing items such as what is appropriate to ask, how to use respectful language, and how to identify a person with disabilities as common things many people should receive training to do.

Pearlman also is interested in partnering with local organizations that will be able to help DCHA’s disabled community with their individual rights, trainings, and learning more about reasonable accommodations.

“I believe a disability is a type of diversity,” he said. “When a person has to disclose a disability, it is already setting a negative tone. If it was considered a diversity, it could be a more positive perception.”

Pearlman received his bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice & Political Science from Rochester Institute of Technology and his Masters of Public Administration from the University of Baltimore.

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Last modified: 5/13/2019 9:23:58 AM