Historic Status Does Not Exempt Buildings From ADA
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 13, 2005
ROANOKE, VIRGINIA--Ever since the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act required public accommodations such as businesses to become accessible, the argument has lingered over which businesses are covered and which are exempt from the law.
In Roanoke, Virginia, as in many older American cities, some business owners in the historic district are claiming that the ADA does not apply to them because making the buildings accessible would significantly alter their historic character.
"The buildings were built 100 years ago, before they knew what handicapped-accessible even was," Bill Kopcial told the Roanoke Times. Kopcial owns a restaurant in the Roanoke City Market District, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
But disability advocates point out that the ADA does require businesses to make reasonable accommodations unless if making changes would destroy or alter the buildings' historic significance.
"What businesses can't do is simply ignore the law because of a misconception that simply because a building is in a historic district, that the ADA doesn't apply to them," said attorney David Beidler, who has helped one resident file eight accessibility complaints with the U.S. Department of Justice.
Jonathan Martinis, managing attorney of the Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy, said: "The ADA is not about helping me get in. The ADA is about getting in."
"Downtown barriers: The debate over removing barriers in downtown" (Roanoke Times)