LAS VEGAS (AP) — Born with a brittle bone disorder, 19-year-old Las Vegas resident Eric Doyle has experienced more than 500 painful fractures in his lifetime and is so fragile that he spent virtually all of his teen years confined to a hospital bed at his home.
All that changed last summer, when his family found a wheelchair that can lay him down flat and bought a surplus ambulance from Florida so he can safely ride to the movies, restaurants and stores.
"His life has definitely changed, and so much so that he doesn't even really understand," his father, Jim Doyle, told The Associated Press. "He's so used to not being able to do anything ... he doesn't realize how he can do anything now."
But the Doyles encountered problems when the Harbor Cove Homeowners Association refused to allow the ambulance to be parked in their driveway, saying commercial vehicles were not allowed in an upscale Las Vegas community.
Doyle said he explained the situation but the association kept mailing complaints and warned of fines.
"It's very stressful for him knowing he was unwelcome there," Doyle said of his son.
He filed a complaint in December with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — and won a $65,000 settlement.
"Homeowners associations must grant reasonable accommodations that enable residents to meet the needs of family members with disabilities," Bryan Greene, HUD's acting assistant secretary for fair housing, said in a statement Wednesday. "Homeowners associations have the same responsibility as housing providers to follow fair housing laws."
The management company, First Columbia Community Management Inc., didn't return a call seeking comment on Wednesday.
The HOA admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement, but they've agreed to pay the family and revise their policy. They also are required to send HOA staff members to fair housing training and prominently feature the statement, "We are a fair housing provider" on letterhead.
While Doyle said the family was happy in their old home — it featured double doors on a ground-level bedroom and other amenities that accommodated wheelchairs — they've recently moved out of the community and into another neighborhood without an HOA.
On Wednesday evening, the family was getting ready to roll Eric Doyle's wheelchair into the ambulance, strap him onto the stretcher with a racing harness, and take him out for a barbecue dinner.
His father said he's happy with the settlement, but is more concerned that this doesn't happen again.
"We didn't do it for the money," he said. "But we let him buy a TV and some games. And we paid his ambulance off."