Recently my Chicago-based construction company renovated a second-floor apartment in a 19-story building to make it more user-friendly for disabled and elderly residents. It was a pilot project: Like the 198 other apartments in the mid-1970s high-rise, the unit had narrow doorways and a kitchen and bathroom that were virtually unnavigable by wheelchair users. Our goal was to bring the space into compliance with federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) accessibility standards.

HUD regulations apply not only to all new federally assisted housing projects, but also to any alterations made to a qualifying existing multifamily building, regardless of its age. According to the project's architect, at least 5 percent of the units in the building will eventually need to meet Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS),...

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