For some New Jerseyans, planning their daily errands and activities can be as logistically difficult as mountain climbing. These residents are, of course, those with disabilities, the elderly or anyone whose mobility has been compromised by illness or injury—even temporarily—getting into or out of their own buildings can feel like a monumental task...like climbing a mountain.
Legally, however there are laws in place that are supposed to provide protection and grant those with disabilities rights that would help make daily life a little bit easier. One law, in particular, is Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). This law states that owners of certain buildings must remove barriers and provide people with disabilities with access equal to or similar to that available to the general public.
Reasonable accommodation can be structural, such as a ramp at the primary entrance to provide wheelchair/walker access, or installing grab-bars in public/community bathrooms. Reasonable accommodation can also involve policy or rule changes, such as permitting a tenant who is blind, physically disabled, or has a psychological disability to have a guide dog, service dog or a companion animal despite a building's “no pets” policy. Human Rights laws provide guidance in assessing requests for reasonable accommodation, taking into account the nature and cost of the proposed accommodation and the financial resources of the landlord or building.
Interpretation of the Law
As with many laws however, deciphering the ADA's legalese can be complicated—not fully understanding the laws applications can result in accidental non-compliance. For example, in some cases, managers and boards in some of the state's older buildings often mistakenly think they are exempt from these laws, believing that the laws are solely meant for new construction. Others may be baffled by the technical requirements of these laws, and still others equate accessibility with big budgets that they may not have at their disposal.
Jonathan Parkhurst, a resident of Jersey City and a partner with the New York City-based law firm of Cary Kane, LLP, notes that, “The ADA provides a whole set of technical regulations regarding accessibility, the statute requires that the building be accessible for those with disabilities. As to what that means there is a whole bevy of regulations.” He points out that these regulations are why, “generally you'll see many buildings now with ramps and other accommodations for those with accessibility issues.”