Americans have a long history of pride in personal independence and individual rights. Since the break with English rule two centuries ago platitudes like, “A man’s home is his castle,” and “live and let live” have existed side-by-side with the desire to also provide for the smallest and weakest in our communities.
Children, the aged and disabled individuals are often not able to live and let live comfortably and safely without special consideration and plans; plans for everyday quality of life issues, and plans for emergencies or extenuating circumstances.
How such plans are put in place and brought to fruition in individual and private homes is a different scenario from the mechanisms employed in multifamily communities, such as condominiums or co-ops. Homeowner, condo owner association boards, property management companies, and individual residents have distinct protocols and laws to consider when safety and security is the issue for those most vulnerable within the community.
Know the Law
It is not only helpful, but essential for a condominium board to have a working understanding of the local, state and federal laws impacting their residents with special needs or disabilities. Legal counsel should be able to answer questions and direct actions when safety and emergency plans are discussed at regular meetings. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) first signed into law in 1990 is administered under The Department of Justice (DOJ) and is an additional resource.
As a civil rights law, the ADA can provide important guidelines on topics such as reasonable accommodations for the disabled and what constitutes discrimination. There can be very expensive consequences for condominium properties and board members if ADA is not interpreted correctly. It is important to remember ADA is not a static field, and changes and modifications may be enacted at any time. Title III, pertaining to private industry, and any place of public accommodations such as lodgings, education, and recreation can also provide helpful guidelines and information for boards.