After a year of collaboration between The Ability Center and the Toledo City Plan Commission, Toledo’s City Council unanimously passed a Text Amendment to the Toledo City zoning code. The Ability Center’s Home Accessibility Program has encountered people who need a ramp or lift to leave their home, for example, to get to work, school, or medical appointments. Generally, zoning setbacks trigger the need for applicants to request a variance, a lengthy and expensive process involving additional fees and a hearing appearance. The Text Amendment provides a more streamlined zoning process for people with disabilities.
For many, installing a ramp is often the difference between maintaining one’s housing and presence in a community, or having to relocate. The new amendment stabilizes communities and provides for additional home ownership options by ensuring residents with disabilities have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. Prior to the Text Amendment, Toledo’s zoning code already permitted exceptions to the setback standards; enclosed balconies, enclosed fire escapes, unenclosed porches and metal awnings have all been permitted exceptions for some time. The Toledo City Plan Commission and The Ability Center worked together to amend the code to allow the same automatic exceptions for people with disabilities wanting to install ramps or lifts.
“While the Fair Housing Act already protects people with disabilities’ ability to modify their homes through requesting reasonable accommodations in local zoning laws, many people are unfamiliar with their rights, and asserting those rights can also become a lengthy and expensive process,” says Ability Center Disability Rights Attorney Katie Hunt Thomas, “By allowing exceptions to the zoning code, people with disabilities will be able to install ramps and lifts as matter of course. This Text Amendment will go far in increasing home access for people with disabilities in Toledo.” The City of Toledo’s recent action affirmatively furthers the goals of the Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act, allowing our aging population the ability to age in place and also ensures that people with disabilities have sustainable home ownership opportunities within a community of their choosing.