U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Office of the Assistant Attorney General JUL 26 1996 Mr. John D.

Del Colle Associate Executive Director Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association 75-20 Astoria Boulevard Jackson Heights, New York 11370-1177 Dear Mr. Del Colle: The Attorney General has asked me to respond to your letter to her. You question the decisions that the New York City Department of Buildings has made regarding accessibility of buildings to people with disabilities. Your letter indicates that the Department of Buildings has limited the scope of the "minor alterations" exception to the City's building permit requirements and has prohibited use of combined ramp/stair configurations. As your letter correctly notes, title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires places of public accommodation in existing buildings to remove barriers to access when it is readily achievable to do so. Providing a ramp at an entrance step is a common method of achieving such barrier removal. The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring full implementation of the ADA. The ADA is intended to balance the needs of people with disabilities with the reasonable needs of businesses. Therefore, the ADA requirements are flexible and implementation relies on voluntary compliance and innovative solutions to accessibility problems. In keeping with this intent, the Department seeks to expand the range of safe, costeffective, and usable accessibility options available to businesses. The ADA allows ramps and stairs to share a landing, as long Washington, D.C. 20035

as additional space is provided beyond the minimum landing and maneuvering clearance requirements. See ADA Standards SS 4.8.7 and 4.13.6. This additional space is necessary to prevent wheelchairs from rolling off the ramp landing onto a step. The New York City approach prohibits stair/ramp combinations even when this additional space is provided. There does not appear to be any significant safety reason for this strict prohibition. 01-04316 -2Although the New York City approach to ramp/stair combinations does not violate the ADA, it imposes more rigorous requirements than the ADA does and significantly limits the range of accessibility options available to small business enterprises. As your letter notes, the New York City requirements make compliance more difficult for small business owners, limit the accessibility options available, and may discourage voluntary compliance. Sincerely, Deval L. Patrick Assistant Attorney General Civil Rights Division 01-04317​ June 25, 1996 The Honorable Janet Reno Attorney General U.S. Department of Justice Constitution Ave. & 10th St., NW Washington, DC 20530 Dear Attorney General Reno: I am writing to alert you and to request your assistance to help persons with disabilities access small businesses in New York City. Due to a change in the interpretation of the New York City Building Code, it has become more costly and more difficult for small business owners to comply with Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In the recent past, New York City had adopted a progressive policy

allowing small businesses to remove one-step barriers without a building permit. This streamlined the process by considerably reducing the cost and time consumption of barrier removal. The current interpretation (Technical Policy and Procedure Notice #1/95 enclosed) narrows the scope of work to be done without a permit, limits the types of material used in construction, and prohibits the use of a shared ramp/step configuration that is used safely throughout the nation. The result is an increased burden on business owners when they undertake the process of barrier removal. As you know, the law requires businesses to remove barriers only when it is readily achievable to do so. EPVA feels strongly that this interpretation adds significantly to business' burden, decreasing the likelihood of barrier removal, and therefor substantially reduces the opportunity for persons with disabilities to access businesses. The most significant change is the New York City Department of Buildings refusal to recognize a shared ramp/step configuration. The Department of Justice, the Architectural Transportation and Barriers Compliance Board, and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) all support the ramp/step configuration which New York City's Department of Buildings has now deemed to be unsafe, with no architectural data to support the claim. The bottom line is that New York City, the largest city in the country, has now made it more difficult and expensive for small business owners to comply with the ADA. The ADA calls for the removal of barriers where it is readily achievable. By requiring the costly procedure of obtaining a permit, and requiring a more elaborate ramp design, the Department of Buildings has made barrier removal readily unachievable, allowing small business owners to sidestep the ADA. more.... 01-04318

The Honorable Janet Reno Attorney General U.S. Department of Justice June 24, 1996 Page 2 I would be grateful if your department could investigate this problem, and at the very least, advise the New York City Department of Buildings

that the ramp/step configuration is a safe, affordable design and must be utilized as a design alternative in New York City. Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to learning of the action your department will be taking to correct this problem which appears to be unique to New York City. Sincerely, JOHN D. DEL COLLE Associate Executive Director Government Relations JDD/ic