New York City can be tough enough to navigate as a young, able-bodied person; it's even more difficult for the elderly or physically challenged to get around and go about their day. Imagine living with a physical disability in an apartment building without ramps or wheelchair access. Imagine living with a serious illness and wanting a pet to ease your suffering—in a building whose bylaws do not allow animals.
A Play in Three Acts
Throughout the years, overcoming such housing obstacles has been made easier with the passing of three important pieces of legislation: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; the Fair Housing Act of 1988, and the American Disabilities Act of 1990. These acts have been extremely helpful in improving the living environments of the disabled, but before understanding the impact of these acts on buildings and its residents, both disabled and non-disabled, its important to understand the distinct definition of each.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), federal law defines a person with a disability as "any person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; has a record of such impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment."
In general, a physical or mental impairment includes hearing, mobility and visual impairments, chronic alcoholism, chronic mental illness, AIDS, AIDS Related Complex, and mental retardation that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Major life activities include walking, talking, hearing, seeing, breathing, learning, performing manual tasks, and caring for oneself.