Santa Monica considers unusual accessibility law

Thursday, January 31, 2002

SANTA MONICA, Calif. - HMEs side-lining in home modifications, here, could be in for some boom times.

In what would be the first such rules in the nation, Santa Monica officials are considering a proposal to require that all privately built new homes and those undergoing major remodeling have a wheelchair ramp entry, wide interior hallways and at least one handicapped-accessible bathroom, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Cities such as Visalia, Calif., have drawn up voluntary accessibility guidelines, and Atlanta, Chicago and Oregon require that new homes built with governmental assistance meet standards set by the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act. But accessibility experts say no current laws require handicapped access in privately financed single-family homes.

Santa Monica officials have suggested that the proposed ordinance include such requirements as a no-step entrance at either the front or rear of the house, hallways that are at least 36 inches wide, doorways at least 32 inches wide, "accessible routes" for wheelchairs through the main floor of the house, and light switches and thermostats positioned so they can be operated from a chair.

Wheelchair advocates and elderly residents would benefit from the changes, but others complain about the potential costs and being forced to unnecessarily modify their homes. HME