Handicapped Access – It’s the Law!
by guest blogger Dean Pelton
Did you know that it’s the law in New York (and many other states) for commercial and residential properties to provide access for people with physical disabilities? That includes apartment buildings, supermarkets, shops, movie theaters, restaurants, etc. – just about any place you can think of going.
More and more laws are being passed to support us in our daily lives, but usually it’s a real fight to get people to comply. That’s what happened when I asked the condo board of the apartment building where I live to make the building accessible; and when I requested that my gym put in a chairlift at the pool and an accessible toilet and shower. But I fought and I won…and I want you to know you can do the same thing!
It always amazes me that business owners don’t want to provide handicapped access. “No, no, no, no, no” was all I heard. They said it would detract from the appeal of the apartment building and they made other mean-spirited comments. But now, when real estate brokers show apartments here, they feature the accessibility.
What you need to know is that in New York, the legal system is complaint-driven, so someone has to start legal action (file a complaint) before they’re forced to comply. And most people are afraid to do that. My battles took four years and it was an arduous process. But it was worth it and it really increased the quality of my life.
The Human Rights Commission in New York is a great resource to help. They’re a real gem. You call them up and tell them your problem, and they get right on it. They’re lovely people, but when serving as an advocate for you they’re like bulldogs. It makes their day when they’ve helped to convert a place that was inaccessible to one that’s accessible. And it doesn’t cost anything to get their help.
The more people that step up and force the issue for accessibility, the better off it will be for all of us. If you have a situation that’s unacceptable, don’t be afraid to take it on with the help of the Human Rights Commission. They’re great advocates who will help carry the weight and get it done. The only way to get anywhere in life is to face our fears and push through them. And remember that the law is on your side.