Village to Enforce Parts of Americans With Disabilities Act

    The Village of East Hampton has started an effort to comply with the federal Americans With Disabilities Act, which it incorporated into its code in 2005.

    Letters from Ken Collum, a village code enforcement officer and fire marshal, and Glenn Hall, the chairman of East Hampton’s Disabilities Advisory Board, which serves both the village and the town, have been sent to businesses in the village. One letter, signed by Mr. Collum, advised business owners that the village would initiate enforcement of the act’s “readily achievable barrier removal provision” — readily achievable being defined as “accomplished and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense.”

    Code enforcement officers, the letter said, will work with businesses on a case-by-case basis to make a business or property accessible to disabled persons. “The village has made specific code changes to facilitate compliance, and there are also tax incentives available to mitigate the costs involved,” the letter stated.

    The other letter, written by Mr. Hall, made a more personal appeal to business owners, stating in part that, “We are only asking that you make changes to your establishment that are reasonable and affordable so that we can come into your store just like everybody else.”

    “We’re just starting off and trying to work through it with Glenn and the advisory committee,” Mr. Collum said. However, he said, “we’re so understaffed, so we tried to combine it with fire safety inspections.”

    Still, Mr. Collum said, the effort will bear fruit. “So far, everybody we’ve talked to has had an ‘A-ha’ moment, realizing, ‘This is a good thing we should do to get people into our businesses.’ Everybody seems to be embracing it.”

    “The village has been nothing but supportive since Day 1,” said Mr. Hall.

    The town government, however, has been slower to move on enforcing A.D.A. compliance. “Nobody’s pushing it other than the advisory board,” Mr. Hall said.

    At its regular meeting on July 18, the town board adopted a budget modification that Councilman Dominick Stanzione, the town’s liaison to the Disabilities Advisory Board, said would provide funding to the fire marshal’s office “for inclusion of documentation to business owners that will be included in the annual mailing of the fire marshal to commercial property owners informing them of the obligation to pursue the readily achievable components” of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

    “I made the point that this is a federal obligation,” Mr. Stanzione said on Tuesday. “The town has included the A.D.A. as part of its code. As a result, A.D.A. and readily achievable goals hold a special place in that we have an obligation to live up to those, that we communicate effectively to commercial property owners about their obligation.”

    When the town and village incorporated A.D.A. standards, no single department had been tasked with enforcement, David Browne, the town’s chief fire marshal, told The Star in an e-mail. “The fire marshal’s office has now been given that assignment. With budgets being so tight and the considerably greater number of businesses in the town, we did not have the funds” for a mailing such as what the village has undertaken, he wrote.

    Mr. Browne noted that state law contains accessibility standards, which the town already enforces. “The A.D.A. standards are much more detailed and comprehensive,” he wrote. “We don’t have the manpower to go out and inspect for just A.D.A. compliance. We are trying to become more familiar with these standards and include them in our continuously ongoing annual commercial inspections.”