101st Assembly District
Kevin Cahill

Room 557 LOB, Albany, NY 12248 • (518) 455-4436
Governor Clinton Building, One Albany Ave., Suite G-4
Kingston, NY 12401 • (845) 338-9610

For Immediate Release
Date: August 16, 2001
Contact: Kathy Keyser
(845) 338-9610

Letter to the Editor on the NYS Building Code

As chair of the New York State Legislative Task Force on People with Disabilities, I am deeply concerned about a potential change in New York's building codes that threatens the progress we have made in providing more accessible living space for people with disabilities. Recently, the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code Council defeated a motion to maintain New York's current accessibility requirements for people with disabilities. These regulations, in place for over 15 years, require newly-constructed apartment buildings to have reasonable, accessible routes and spaces, particularly in bathrooms and kitchens. The Council's plan to replace the existing provisions with the International Building Code (IBC) will make it practically impossible for people with disabilities to find adequate living space in most new apartment units.

Under the IBC, only an insulting 2 percent of new construction in the above respect would be required to maintain the accessibility needed by disabled New Yorkers. Thus, the design of the remaining 98 percent will not be accessible to many with disabilities, allowing for no maneuvering room at interior doors, less clear floor space for lavatory and bath facilities, and water closets to be situated as to render the installation of sidewall grab bars impossible. The end result is alarmingly clear - if the Council decides at its September 6, 2001 meeting to approve this plan, thousands across the state would face expensive structural alterations to live independently in almost all new apartments built after January 1, 2002.

This measure complicates New York's compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), resulting in needless expenses that most people with disabilities simply cannot afford. We in the Assembly are making every effort to ensure this compliance, especially in light of the United States Supreme Court ruling in Olmstead v. L.C., which determined that the ADA requires states to serve people with disabilities in the most integrated settings appropriate to their needs. Our goal is to provide community-based services rather than institutional placements for people with disabilities. As we move forward to enforce this important provision of the ADA, more accessible housing is clearly needed - not less.

It is to every New Yorker's advantage, particularly those with disabilities who would like to live in a less restrictive setting, to act consistent with the decision by the nation's highest court, which ruled that the ability to live independently is a basic civil right. I urge New Yorkers to contact Secretary of State Randy Daniels to demand that the Council recognize its responsibility to our disabled population. Mr. Daniels can be reached at 41 State Street, Albany, New York, 12231-0001 or by phone at 518-486-9888. Let him know that this proposed change will severely limit access, freedom and quality of life.

Kevin Cahill
Member of Assembly