Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Where can I find the accessibility standards for dwelling units required to be accessible under the Fair Housing Act's design and construction requirements?

The Fair Housing Act requires seven basic requirements that must be met to comply with the access requirements of the Act. Those Requirements are:

Requirement 1. An accessible building entrance on an accessible route.
Requirement 2. Accessible common and public use areas.
Requirement 3. Usable doors (usable by a person in a wheelchair).
Requirement 4. Accessible route into and through the dwelling unit.
Requirement 5. Light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls in accessible locations.
Requirement 6. Reinforced walls in bathrooms for later installation of grab bars.
Requirement 7. Usable kitchens and bathrooms.

These requirements are stated in the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 3604(f)(3)(C). To describe these requirements in more detail, HUD published Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines (the Guidelines) on March 6, 1991, and supplemented those Guidelines with a Supplemental Notice: Questions and Answers About the Guidelines published on June 28, 1994. The Guidelines are one of seven safe harbors for compliance that HUD has identified.

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Can an accessible route be an indirect route? Can it have locks or a call button for its use?

HUD requires that an accessible route not be hidden, remote, circuitous or require people with disabilities to travel long distances. It also requires that use of an accessible route not place requirements, like a special key, an attendant, or additional waiting periods, on people with disabilities. Providing an accessible route that has different and less favorable conditions for people with disabilities than for people without disabilities may violate the Fair Housing Act because it amounts to a difference in terms and conditions of housing based on disability. However, imposing key requirements or other special access provisions, or providing an indirect route does not violate the law if those requirements apply to all people and not just people with disabilities.

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Which entrance or entrances to a covered unit must be accessible? Can the accessible entrance be a patio door or a back door?

An entrance is an exterior access point used by residents for the purpose of entering the building. Using a patio door or a secondary door like a back door as the only accessible entrance establishes different terms and conditions for people with disabilities. This practice may also require a person with disabilities to use long or circuitous routes, which violates the Act. This principle was recently affirmed in United States v. Edward Rose Construction Co., Civil Action No. 02-73518, (W.D. MI, 2003) where the court said, "HUD interprets the Act such that a primary entrance is part of the public or common use areas, regardless of whether it opens from the interior or exterior. If this is true, then, it must comply with the FHA accessibility requirements, even if there is a secondary entrance that is adequately accessible. A 'primary entrance,' it seems, is one that is on an accessible route and is most likely to be used as such, particularly when it is most convenient to parking."

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Under the Fair Housing Act's design and construction requirements, may an accessible entrance be through a loading dock or service door?

No. See Guidelines, Definition of "Entrance," which states, "For purposes of these guidelines, an "entrance" does not include a door to a loading dock or a door used primarily as a service entrance, even if non-handicapped residents occasionally use that door to enter." Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines, 56 FR 9472, 9482, March 6, 1991.

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If a required accessible route has a slope of more than 5%, is this portion of the route a walkway or a ramp?

It is a ramp and must meet the requirements for ramps, including slopes not to exceed 8.33%, handrails on both sides, edge protection, and comply with all other applicable specifications of ANSI A117.1.

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