States across the nation are adopting new regulations that require HOAs to hold their board meetings in places that are accessible by the disabled. Florida has current legislation pending that would require all meetings to be held in handicap accessible buildings, and other states already have or are considering similar legislation. Whether your state is considering making these regulations a formal law or not, now is the time for HOAs to take the opportunity to make sure that its meetings can be attended by all members of the community.
Accommodating Disabled Residents
The fact that a resident is physically disabled doesn’t mean they should be denied the opportunity to take part in community meetings. HOAs that hold their meetings in places that residents who are handicapped or otherwise disabled can’t access may be keeping some of their residents from attending. It may not be done out of malice, but the result is the same: community members who could otherwise be active in HOA decisions are being denied the opportunity to participate.
If the meeting space is inaccessible or inconvenient for disabled residents to enter or move around in, it might be time to consider holding the meetings elsewhere, or finding ways to make the meeting place more comfortable. This may be inconvenient, but it’s worth the time and energy it takes. Not only is it not fair (and quite possibly illegal) to exclude disabled residents, it will go a long way to make sure that less capable members feel comfortable and accepted in their own community.
Holding Meetings that Everyone Can Attend
Disability doesn’t just mean obvious signs of physical impairment. Just because no one in the community requires a wheelchair doesn’t mean that there aren’t residents who suffer from some sort of disability that makes it difficult for them to attend meetings.
In order to be inclusive, it’s best not to wait until the issue is brought up with a formal complaint or action. Making meetings accessible by all is the right and neighborly thing to do. Consult the state and local ordinances pertaining to the disabled, and make sure that the meeting place meets their requirements. If a resident brings up an issue that keeps them from attending, try to find a way to accommodate them. This will not only protect the HOA and the board from possible legal action, it will go a long way to encouraging participation from all members of the community, regardless of their physical impairments.
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