The Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal law passed by congress and signed by the president in 1990, recently turned 20 years old, along with the ramps and accessibility features that came with it. The law changed the entire face of public architecture, forcing businesses, government buildings, and other, older buildings to be retrofitted with all the designs and trappings that we now consider standard.
Older apartment buildings had to add elevators and ramps, as did post offices, city halls, and a smattering of other such buildings. Public transportation like buses had to add wheelchair ramps so the handicapped could be easily lifted inside and let off just as easily. Subway stations were mandated to install wheelchair accessible elevators and wider doors on cabs. Airplanes needed to make the same types of adjustments, as did trains. The American with Disabilities Act was a monumental victory for handicapped and disabled Americans across the country.
These accommodations are now standard within these areas of transportation and public life. Still, retrofitting is a “hot-button issue” in some places, according to this article. In Fort Myers, Florida, some condominium complexes and other apartment buildings are railing against retrofitting of elevators and other handicapped accessible features because of the massive cost that would be incurred. Luckily, a new law has been passed for those complexes – SB 1196 does not require buildings to immediately change their elevator systems to accommodate the new standards. As the article states:
“SB 1196 provides some relief by amending the law to state that building code changes which require the addition of “Phase II Firefighters’ Service” on existing elevators may not be enforced on elevators in condominiums for five years, or until the elevator is replaced or requires major modification, whichever occurs first. This extension of time does not apply to a building for which a certificate of occupancy was issued after July 1, 2008.”
Although some may take issue with it, the Americans with Disabilities Act is a truly important law for those Americans who have to use elevators and ramps on a daily basis.