Access for All Exterior Alterations for Disabled Residents

The city can be a tough place to navigate even for the most able-bodied New Yorkers. For the elderly, those with disabilities, or anyone whose mobility has been compromised by illness or injury—even temporarily—getting into their own building can feel like a monumental task.

One law—specifically Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 —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. Another law administered by the New York City Commission on Human Rights is the city’s Human Rights Law. This law also protects the rights of people with disabilities by requiring that landlords and management of co-ops and condominiums reasonably accommodate the needs of disabled tenants, shareholders or owners.

The city’s Human Rights Law protects the rights of people with disabilities by requiring that landlords, co-ops, and condos reasonably accommodate the needs of disabled tenants, shareholders or owners. Reasonable accommodation can be structural, such as a ramp at the primary entrance to provide wheelchair access, or installing grab-bars in bathrooms. They can also involve policy or rule changes, such as permitting a tenant who is blind or has a psychological disability to have a guide dog or a companion animal, despite a building’s “no pets” policy. The law provides 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.

Help for All

As with many laws however, deciphering the ADA’s legalese can be complicated—and not fully understanding the law’s applications can result in accidental noncompliance. For example, in some cases, managers in the city’s older buildings 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.

To help make the process smoother, there are several city-based organizations and offices where residents, building management and landlords can turn to for assistance deciphering the laws and ultimately complying with the ADA. The New York City Commission on Human Rights Law Enforcement Bureau and the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities can be contacted for assistance or if a resident has been rejected after making an accessibility request.


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  • What constitutes notice to a co-op that a person need or may need access. I have heard that seeing a disabled person in the building is notice. Is that true?
  • My son is wheelchair bound and we have a private elevator in a condo in NYC but we need the building to add ramps at the building entrance so we can access the lobby. Is the condo responsible to pay for this change?
  • I live in a NYC rent stabilized apartment and am 64 years old and am disabled. The managing agent announced that they are renovating the elevated,(which works fine), and it will not be working for several months. I live on the fifth floor and cannot climb steps. What can I do and do I have any rights? Thank you.
  • I live in The Bronx, NY in a Mitchell-Llama Co-op. Our entrance ways have been converted to a key less fob system. I am a disabled senior citizen and my sister has bronchial asthma and lives in the same development. She, too is a senior citizen. The manager seems to be on a power trip because I cannot find any regulations/laws that state that only one key fob per cooperator. My sister and I are not able to get a key fob for each other's building simply because the manager says so. For more than 30 years, we have been always able to enter the buildings through the back doors (more direct) than going around to the front which requires more steps. Both of us suffer with osteoarthritis of the knees and I also have been diagnosed with chondromalacia patella with internal derangement of the right knee. Walking around to the front of the buildings causes delays and imposes undue and unnecessary hardships for each of us. We understand the need for security, safety and control, but my sister and I are both senior citizens and will pose no threat to Jamie Towers if we are able to access each other’s buildings with a key fob. I am legally disabled and fall under the protection of ADA Does management have the right to hold us prisoners?
  • My condo bldg. doesn't have automatic entrance doors to push my mothers wheel chair through. The doors are heavy and have given me back issues as well. Some of my neighbors have walkers/wheel chairs and struggle with the heavy entrance doors. Does Florida law accommodate the needs of disabled condo owners regarding installing automatic entrance doors into the condo bldg.?