Q&A: Is an HOA Accountable for Wheelchair Access?

Q. I am a resident who is wheelchair-bound at a condo building built before 1991. I had a temporary plywood ramp made specifically for access to enter and exit the common entrance. The HOA has since informed me the ramp is unacceptable due to fire escape regulations, insurance purposes, and impeding other tenants from free access. My question is whether the HOA is in anyway liable in providing wheelchair accessibility to a multi-unit building built prior to 1991?

          —Disabled in DeKalb County

A. “It appears that the reference to 1991 relates to the requirement that buildings constructed from and after March 13, 1991 have to meet certain handicap/disability accessibility standards promulgated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development,” says attorney Michael C. Kim, principal of the Chicago-based law firm of Michael C. Kim & Associates.  “Since the building was constructed prior to that date, those accessibility requirements imposed on builders would not be applicable.  

“However, the law does require that reasonable accommodation be made for disabled individuals to allow access into a building and ultimately their dwelling unit.  The accommodation must be reasonable and the expense of physical modification would be borne by the requesting resident.  

“In this instance, the accommodation is the installation of a ramp so as to facilitate wheelchair access into and out of the common entrance way.  The installation of the ramp is still subject to bonafide safety requirements that may be imposed by local governmental authority; such requirements may be imposed as conditions for the installation of the ramp, including code required materials, construction and placement.  


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