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Why are some restaurants in downtown Wilmington not required to make restrooms accessible?

Vicky Eckenrode
StarNews

Gloria Garton, executive director for the disAbility Resource Center in Wilmington, said any buildings built after the federal Americans with Disabilities Act passed are required to have wheelchair-accessible restrooms.

The tricky part comes in with historic buildings, like the many that dot downtown Wilmington.

Garton said if an owner makes changes or modification to the building, the owner should include upgrades then to make it ADA-compliant.

“One of the hardest things about the Americans with Disabilities Act is there’s so many ‘if’s’ and if ‘this applies, then X does or does not apply,’” she said. “A lot of times it’s on a case-by-case basis.”

Linda Priest, a technical assistant with the Southeast ADA Center funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, said any building built after 1992 – when the act went into effect – should be completely accessible.

Priest said historic buildings also are under an obligation to create access. As an example, she said that if an owner does not want to put a ramp on the front of the building to impact the historical character, he or she should still put in a ramp at another entrance.

“They’re under obligation to provide those (accommodations) up to a level that they can afford to,” she said. “Generally, all restrooms should be accessible.”

People with general or specific questions about ADA, or want to receive free materials about the law or to file a complaint, can call the U.S. Justice Department’s ADA information line at (800) 514-0301.

Related links:

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Endless options for all disabilities (David Morrison’s blog)

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