Diane, who has orthopedic impairments which limit her mobility, was unable to carry her laundry from her third-floor apartment to the laundry room in the basement of her building without severe back pain.
Know Your Rights
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other federal and state laws require that all new buildings and places of public accommodation be made accessible to people with disabilities. However, these laws do not require owners to make their buildings accessible under all circumstances. A pre-existing building or business must be made accessible when doing so is “readily achievable” and can be done without much difficulty or expense. Re-grading a sidewalk or doorway entrance or installing a simple ramp are examples of such readily achievable modifications. Also, the ADA requires buildings undergoing renovations or alterations be made accessible for people with disabilities “to the maximum extent feasible.”
Basically, federal and state laws are intended to strike a balance between the need for and goal of equal access and the interests of businesses and owners, particularly in regard to costs. Despite the common sense and fair nature of these rules, they are all too often flaunted in practice. This is made worse when towns and cities charged with ensuring compliance with accessibility requirements do not do an effective job of enforcement.
The ADA website maintained by the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ), Civil Rights Division is a good resource on the ADA with links to the statute and related federal regulations. The site also has information about accessibility and accommodation cases that the USDOJ has successfully pursued on behalf of individuals with disabilities.
Accessibility and accommodation rights under New Hampshire law are included in the State Commission for Human Rights laws. The specific statutes addressing equal access to public accommodations are N.H. RSA 354-A:16 and 17.
How We Can Help
DRC-NH has successfully helped individuals with disabilities resolve a wide range of accessibility and accommodation issues. We want to know about and assist you with challenges you face accessing any public agency or private business. Examples of where we can help you include:
- Sidewalk access and use
- Getting into any government or private building
- Accessibility to services (such as medical appointments; police, fire and safety services; voting)
- Inside access and maneuvering inside any government or private building
- Restroom access
- Accessibility with service animals
- Communication access for deaf/hard of hearing
- Accessibility needs in state and county correctional institutions
We worked with Wendy to successfully request both a structural modification to her windows and an accommodation to the building policy so she could use a window unit once her windows were changed. Now Wendy can breathe better and feels more secure in her apartment.
We were able to get the railroad company to fix its tracks so that James can once again safely and independently go to and from town.