When Mary Maher and Steve Griffin built their Surfside Beach home in 1998, they didn’t think about needing a lift to get into the raised house. But last winter, Griffin suffered a fall that made them think again.
After that, they decided to apply for a permit to install a lift. It wasn’t until six months later that it was installed.
Now, thanks to a new ordinance passed in Surfside Beach recently, others with disabilities in the town won’t have to go through the anxiety-inducing wait period that Maher and Griffin described.
Under previous rules, anyone who wanted to construct something on a setback — a section of property where building is prohibited — needed to go through the lengthy process of getting a variance. The new ordinance states that residents can build structures necessary to make their homes accessible up to 50% of the length of the setback.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, which was passed in 1990, requires public places to be accessible, but private residences aren’t regulated under the law. If a resident brings an issue to a local government, they are required to alter their codes to be more accessible unless they can prove it’s too costly or would alter the function of the government under the ADA, according to Rebecca Williams, an information specialist with the training and technical division of the ADA.