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Building Code Council Reaches Compromise on Accessible Apartments

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RALEIGH — People with disabilities are often literally shut out of apartments and condos that are inaccessible. Some developers want to make even fewer new homes accessible; people with disabilities say it is already tough enough to find somewhere to live.

Even though Cynthia Martin owns her own home, she says the biggest barrier facing people with disabilities is the lack of accessible housing.

Martin, and other members of the disabled community, packed Wednesday's meeting of the North Carolina Building Code Council.

The group wanted to keep the required number of handicapped accessible apartments at five percent, even though some say that number is too low.

"Each time I've looked for apartments myself it's just been a very large shortage," said Greenville resident Bobby Ingram.

Cary resident Chad Harris said he looked at a number of apartments that were supposed to be accessible, but in reality he could not get through the doorways in his wheelchair.

Developers wanted to lower the number of accessible apartments to two percent. "You have less than one percent of the units that are currently occupied by handicapped people," said developer Bill Dansey.

After an emotional debate, the council reached a compromise. Developers agreed to keep the number of required units at five percent. Disabled advocates allowed a new state building code to be changed so all ground floor units will not have to be fully handicapped accessible.

"I think it was a conscious decision and it seems to meet the needs of everyone involved," said committee member Aubrey Smith.

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Ericka Lewis, Reporter
Terry Cantrell, Photographer
Julie Moos, Web Editor

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