Private Users of Real Estate

Information on how private users of real estate can make their property accessible.

Accessible Design

The Office on the Disabled has compiled a listing of documents highlighting accessible ramps, restrooms, and parking spaces.

Building Standards

The City has a building code that contains standards for making construction of property accessible. But, the building code standards for accessible design are not identical to the standards applied for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for commercial construction or Fair Housing Act Amendments (FHAA) standards for residential construction.

The Building Division, not the Office on the Disabled, enforces compliance with the building codes. Generally, the Office on the Disabled brings ADA and FHAA standards to the attention of the Building Division, developers, and designers. The developers and designers are themselves responsible for complying with those standards.

Occupancy Permits

Business owners and those seeking occupancy permits should first read this helpful document, What Business Owners Should Know About the City's Disabled Accessibility Requirements for Retail and Office Spaces.

The City requires all businesses to have Occupancy Permits so that the property will have good plumbing, electrical, fire safety and other elements.  The Office on the Disabled plays a role in reviewing some occupancy permit applications.

  • If there is a change in occupancy but not a change in use, the property is not inspected for accessibility.
  • If the space is being altered or otherwise rehabilitated, the work will require a building permit.  The Plan Examiners in the Building Division will look at accessibility features and only occasionally consult with the Office on the Disabled when difficult questions arise.
  • But, if there is a change in use, then the building inspectors inspect for accessibility and they forward issues to the Office on the Disabled.
In the change of use cases that involve minimal alterations, the amount being spent on opening for business is usually very limited.  Usually building a ramp or rehabilitating a restroom would be a lot more than the business is spending on everything else.  The Office on the Disabled does not require businesses to spend disproportionate amounts of money.  For example,
  • If it is just a step or two into the space, the Office might ask the business to buy a portable ramp and put up a sign inviting customers to knock or dial a phone number to bring out the portable ramp.
  • If the business is up a number of steps, the Office would not require an elevator.  It may instead, ask the business to post a sign that says, "for assistance, please call" and include a phone number.  In those cases, the business will have promised to serve its customers somewhere else from the business's space.
  • If the restroom is not completely accessible, the Office would inquire whether it is for use by the public.
    • If not, a private restroom sign on the door is sufficient.
    • If yes, then the Office may, depending on the circumstances, ask the business to install grab bars or buy a higher toilet or replace doorknobs and faucets with levers.
When the business and the Office work out what the business is going to do, the Office waives the requirement of the building code for full accessibility.  The Office has never had a case that a business could not open because of accessibility requirements.

TIF Projects

The Office has a greater role in reviewing projects funded with approval of the Tax Increment Finance (TIF) Commission. In order to obtain TIF financing the developer must make two promises regarding access. It must - 

  • design and build its commercial projects in compliance with ADA standards
  • design and build its residential projects with the number of fully accessible units that the FHAA would require if it were new construction and make all the other units adaptable, all regardless of whether it is new construction or rehabilitation.

The Office on the Disabled reviews the drawings for compliance.

All Other Real Estate Development

With respect to all other real estate development, the Office suggests how construction can be made to comply with ADA and Fair Housing Act standards. It performs three additional functions:

  • Consults with the Plan Examiners from the Building Division on unique accessibility problems in new construction and renovation projects;
  • Consults with the public about how to make aspects of a planned project accessible;
  • Explains requirements of the ADA and the Fair Housing Act to design professionals, developers, businesses, and home owners and renters.

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