05/09/2012 05:19 pm ET Updated Jul 09, 2012

Housing Discrimination: Disability-Related Complaints Soar

AOL Real Estate:

Eleanor Smith vividly recalls the first time she experienced housing discrimination.

Then in her 30s, Smith and a friend had been driving around neighborhoods in Decatur, Ga., attempting to hunt down a home with an accessible entrance for Smith, who has polio and has used a wheelchair all her life.

After responding to a series of ads, the pair finally pulled up to an apartment that appeared to fit the bill.

"It would have been very appropriate. They just had one little step to get in," Smith recalled.

But the landlord, though receptive at first, pulled an about-face after Smith's friend disclosed the fact that Smith (pictured above) would need a ramp to access the entrance.

"The woman just flat out said, 'No, I don't believe I want to do that. I don't want to rent to someone who has a disability,' " Smith said. "And at that time it was perfectly legal."

That was more than 30 years ago. Today, such a stance is illegal, and Americans with disabilities are more conscious of their housing rights -- and prepared to fight for them -- than ever.

Read the whole story at AOL Real Estate.