Royal Palm Coast REALTOR® Association Helps Members Learn to Serve Clients with Disabilities

Royal Palm Coast REALTOR® Association Helps Members Learn to Serve Clients with Disabilities

October 2023

According to the Centers for Disease Control, as many as one in four adults in the United States lives with a disability.  The Royal Palm Coast REALTOR® Association (RPCRA), on Florida’s Gulf Coast, addressed the needs of this considerable segment of the population in late June, when it presented an event to educate its members about working with clients with disabilities.  A Fair Housing Grant from the REALTOR® Party helped make it possible.

The ‘Working with Clients with Special Needs’ symposium featured two speakers whose expertise was extensive and personal, as well as professional:  John Young, a REALTOR® whose practice is focused on clients with disabilities, and who has a teenage daughter with special needs; and Vinnie Venugopal, a local building contractor with a passion for helping the region’s senior and disabled community with housing appropriate to their needs.  They presented a compelling program, drawing an audience of over 60 members to the luncheon event at a local hotel.

Young’s talk made it clear that there is a broad range of disabilities that require sensitivity and understanding – as well as certain housing features – and not all are visible.  For Marlissa Gervasoni, RPCRA’s incoming president, the most poignant moment in his presentation was when he revealed what inspired his mission to help REALTORS® help clients with disabilities:  when a special-needs client once asked him: “Are people like us a waste of your time?”  “He had done an amazing job sharing his expertise and insights, but for me, this was the most impactful statement, and it has stayed with me, as I’m sure it stayed with everyone in the room,” she recalls.

Venugopal, who specializes in building barrier-free homes, explained the importance of learning the specific needs of, and solutions for, clients with disabilities.  For people in wheelchairs, for example, zero-entry doorways (without thresholds) and hallways wide enough to accommodate 180-degree turns can make a tremendous difference in ease-of-use, as can accessible cabinetry in bathrooms and kitchens, and thoughtfully designed outdoor spaces.

The knowledgeable insights that both presenters shared about interacting with special-needs clients and the housing accommodations that can make life easier for them was a real eye-opener, says Angela Foster, RPCRA’s Director of Professional Development, who developed the program with the association’s Professional Development Committee.  Her only regret is that, although RPCRA has established an annual Fair Housing Symposium, also supported by REALTOR® Party grants, they hadn’t focused on the issue of disabilities sooner.  “We want our members to know that accessibility is an opportunity, not an obstacle.  The message is so important, and this program was such a success, that we would love to offer it again to reach as many of our members as possible.”

In the meantime, the REALTORS® have taken positive action on a suggestion made by a member who attended the ‘Working with Clients with Special Needs’ symposium: he asked what could be done about adding a search function to MLS that would allow agents to find listings for accessible housing more easily.  RPCRA brought the idea to their local MLS, which is working on making it happen.

To learn more about how the Royal Palm Coast REALTOR® Association is ensuring that clients with disabilities receive proper standards of practice in all their real estate interactions, contact Angela Foster, Director, Professional Development, at or 239.936.3537 x225; or Marlissa Gervasoni, the association’s incoming President, at


  1. REPLY
    Jack Martin says

    Congratulations RPCRA!

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