Page 9 - New England Condominium May 2021
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-MAY 2021    
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meet the needs of the mobility impaired,” he  
says, “and co-ops and condos must be careful  
that they are adhering to those codes. For in- 
stance, you have a front entrance to a building.  
There are code requirements for ramps; doors  
must open outward, and there are mandatory  
heights for handles, as well as requirements  
for the width of the doors, which must be at  
least 36 inches to accommodate wheelchairs.  
Stairs may also be an issue for the mobility im- 
paired. For people with vision impairments,  
there are signs in braille. For the hearing im- 
paired, everything is visual.” 
For older buildings built long before the  
ADA was even a concept, there may be some  
wiggle room, Baron says. “It should be noted  
that some buildings are grandfathered in— 
but if and when they redesign their public ar- 
eas, they need to be careful about what choices  
they make, since an architectural change to  
the building may trigger ADA compliance re- 
quirements. That can be very expensive.” 
Cost vs. Compliance 
Baron points out that while many older  
buildings are grandfathered in under the ADA  
and therefore not mandated to comply with  
the Act’s specifications, even if they wanted to  
update their spaces, the cost of doing so may  
be prohibitive. This is particularly true for  
smaller prewar co-ops and condos, and those  
whose residents are on fixed incomes.  
figuring a limited interior space—especially  
within the confines of the condo association’s  
or co-op corporation’s alteration rules and  
parameters—requires a particular set of skills  
and ideas.  
Ximena Rodriguez, Principal and Direc- 
tor of Interior Design for New York design  
firm CetraRuddy, says that even before the  
pandemic, new construction clients like the  
Rockefeller Group, developers of the Rose  
Hill condominium tower in Manhattan’s  
NoMad neighborhood, were incorporating  
multipurpose “flex  spaces” into apartment  
designs. In terms of COVID, she says, “As  
people work from home, and as their kids  
learn from home, they need the rooms and  
areas within those homes to play more than  
one role. Now flex spaces have become a seri- 
ous value-add for buyers, because they offer  
room to set up a home office or library, or a  
learning space for children. This is a trend we  
anticipate will soon become widespread.” 
Gia Milazzo Smith, owner of Designs By  
Gia, serves clients in Massachusetts, New  
Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island,  
and sees the same trends happening in New  
England. “I see a lot of people that are going  
to be working from home permanently,” she  
says. “People have now proved that they can  
work from home successfully, so their com- 
continued from page 1 
These communities, says Baron, “nor- 
mally function pretty well, so I suggest  
they avoid triggering ADA requirements.  
Co-ops  and  condos  don’t  want to  trigger  
the costs involved or lose their entire lobby  
to a ramp, so we’ll often look for another  
ingress/egress option, or perhaps recom- 
mend a collapsible ramp. My advice is to  
be ‘conservative’ in remodeling your space  
in ways that might trigger ADA require- 
By contrast, Baron continues, buildings  
with more services may be able to make  
meaningful updates without necessarily in- 
curring exorbitant expenses. “For example,  
if you have services like a concierge desk,  
when you’re building a new desk or replac- 
ing an existing one, it might be designed  
as a dual-level surface with a 42-inch-high  
surface for standing individuals and a  
30-inch-high surface for individuals using  
wheelchairs.  This  is  where  ADA  compli- 
ance and Universal Design meet.” 
Cohen reiterates that “the ADA was ini- 
tiated as a civil rights act, not as a prescrip- 
tion of dimensional code requirements”  
and stresses that understanding the users  
of a space and what they want and need is  
what is most important. He points to New  
York  City’s Inclusive Design Guidelines,  
which the city’s Department of Design  
and Construction  publishes  in collabora- 
tion with the Center for Inclusive Design  
& Environmental Access at the State Uni- 
versity of New York (SUNY) Buffalo as “an  
continued on page 16 
outstanding example of a document that  
meshes an understanding of accessibility  
codes with the nuances of how differently- 
abled users make use of spaces and facili- 
ties,” from those with mobility challenges to  
those of varied heights, including children.  
“Each section describes recommended  
characteristics but also includes advisory  
notes that allow for nuances in consider- 
ation.” A full PDF of the guidelines can be  
found here: 
In the final analysis, Universal Design— 
design for everyone—is a concept whose  
time  is  definitely  here,  but  also  one  that  
has evolved organically over decades. It has  
also meshed and grown with the practical  
implications of the Americans with Dis- 
abilities Act to make real and lasting chang- 
es in how we build, what we build, and who  
we build it for.     
A J Sidransky is a staff writer/reporter  
for New England Condominium, and a pub- 
lished novelist. 
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