The garage in our apartment building has two elevators, one in each corner of a square structure. At one elevator we'll call "R", there's two handicap parking spots at each floor, and at the other elevator, "P", there's one handicap spot per floor. At the "R" elevator, the garage floors are a half-story off of every apartment floor, so you must use the elevator or stairs to reach an apartment from that corner; it is an accessible route when the elevator is available, but without an elevator, it is not.

The "R" elevator is frequently reserved for a move-in or move-out, and it will not come when you press the call button at those times. If you park near this elevator and do not know that it's reserved that day (there's no signage and no advanced notice when it's reserved), you must go uphill or downhill about 150 ft to the opposite corner to reach the "P" elevator. The garage floor at the "P" elevator is level with the floors of the apartment building and is an accessible route, at least to that floor, even if the elevator is unavailable. Also, the only EV charging spots, including the only handicap EV charging spots, are all next to the "R" elevator.

The garage is used for residents, their guests, anyone visiting the leasing office, and any maintenance/contractors doing work at the building. I've wondered if handicap residents maybe have a key or fob that allows overriding the elevator, but I don't see a place for anything but a fire key. Also, since it's not exclusively used by residents, that would probably be rendered moot by the other users & factors mentioned.

Both elevators are primary routes; neither would be considered a "maintenance access" or anything like that. The building is a huge maze, and some apartments are simply closer to one elevator or the other. The two elevators are the same size, and sadly neither is a freight elevator (the building lacks one).

This building is located in Charlotte, NC, USA and is only a few years old. It has approximately 300 units of 1-3 bedrooms. The building and parking structure are about 6 stories, with about 15 handicap spots total.

My question is simply whether it's legal to routinely, usually about 3 days per week, reserve the elevator when it's somewhat crucial for handicap users? Given the lack of handicap spots at the "P" elevator and the distance to reach it if you park at "R", this doesn't seem right.

I have no desire to get anyone in trouble or take legal action. If the consensus is that this is not legal, I will pass this along politely to management here and hope that they change their practices.

  • @pyrotechnical Sorry for the confusion. OP clarified RE: garage and apt floors wrt to elevators. P is an accessible route at all times due to a direct entrance to the apt floors and the ability to use other elevators in the building that are not attached to the garage. R is only an accessible route if the elevator is working.
    – pbristow
    Commented Sep 5, 2023 at 22:24
  • "I've wondered if handicap residents maybe have a key or FOB that allows overriding the elevator" How would someone Fresh Off the Boat override the elevator? Commented Sep 6, 2023 at 4:04

2 Answers 2



I skimmed through my copy of the 2010 ADA to try and glean this answer, but there's a few things that are making it difficult to definitively determine.

The most pertinent thing is the concept of what is the 'accessible route' for the building.

In general, an accessible route for a building needs to meet certain slope requirements and not have physical barriers that impede entry by persons with various disabilities. These primarily have to do with things like the route's slope, cross slope, and protrusions in the route. In general, this usually means that the shortest distance from accessible parking spaces to a door is the accessible route, but not always (it just usually is because it's a pain in the neck to meet the design requirements over very long distances).

The second important thing with the accessible route is that it can't be a different entrance than what's used by the general public to enter the building. So if everyone enters through the front door, you can't make the accessible route be at the rear of the building barring some probably non-applicable things regarding historic buildings.

With regards to whether the building entrance at the "R" elevator is an accessible route to the building, it would depend upon whether that entrance is considered a normal entrance for the building to be used by the general public. If it's primarily a maintenance entrance then it might not be considered an accessible route (which seems possible given it sounds like a freight elevator). This might be even more true if the route to the "P" elevators meets the accessible route definitions for ensuring there are no physical barriers.

I suspect that there is an ADA violation occurring here, but that's partly because there's probably one occurring in most places (ADA often feels needlessly complicated). It sounds like the building could probably alleviate this specific issue, though, by simply installing a chair lift that can be used when the elevator's reserved for use by folks moving.

  • I think there's a misunderstanding? The R elevator will move through half-floors, so that, when it's in operation, it's accessible. Neither elevator goes to the lobby, but that's not relevant in any way I can see. The point of my mentioning half-floors is that from that corner of the garage you must use the elevator as an accessible route to any apt. From the corner with the P elevator, you can go directly to your apt w/o using the elevator if you are on your floor, so it's not as strictly necessary as an accessible path.
    – pbristow
    Commented Sep 5, 2023 at 15:54
  • 2
    Ok, I think I misunderstood. So all elevators lead to a residents' floor without them needing to use steps afterwards? Is that correct? Regarding my use of 'lobby', I was intending it to mean an 'elevator lobby'. Commented Sep 5, 2023 at 16:07
  • 2
    @pbristow revised to better address your question. Commented Sep 5, 2023 at 19:29
  • From OP: "The "R" elevator is a half-story off of every apartment floor, so you must use the elevator or stairs to reach an apartment from that corner." - That makes me believe that P is the ADA compliant one, R never is.
    – Trish
    Commented Sep 5, 2023 at 19:33
  • @Trish an accessible route can include means to bypass obstructions. For example, a curb ramp allows folks with a physical impediment to clear the vertical obstruction of a curb; similarly a chair lift allows someone to get past a set of stairs. Such accommodations need to be situated to lead someone with a physical handicap to the same building entrance. So an elevator leading to the same entrance for a floor that a series of steps would could be an accessible route (though it need not be if this was some kind of maintenance entrance). Commented Sep 5, 2023 at 19:40

You can kick a fuss, but all you'll do for your trouble is get the handicap parking spots moved to the P elevator.

And get the EV parking spots moved or augmented and their price raised.

Only four states provide damages for ADA violations. In the rest, the most you can hope for is getting the defect corrected.

  • I'm not looking to cause trouble. I'm not handicap. I'm just pretty annoyed they keep locking down the elevators with no warning or notice. Then one day it dawned on me that all this might get them in some trouble, and as I generally like my building and the management, I thought maybe I'd research the issue and let them know if they're setting themselves up for a lawsuit. Thank you for the info!
    – pbristow
    Commented Sep 6, 2023 at 1:08
  • 1
    @pbristow Yeah, owners tend to treat ADA stuff pretty seriously, especially in the four states that have damages. There's a lot of "left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing" on stuff like this, i.e. the consultancy that recommended handicap spots at R had no earthly idea that somebody else in management would dedicate R to move-ins. Commented Sep 6, 2023 at 19:41
  • Out of curiosity, which four states? Commented Sep 6, 2023 at 19:48
  • @A.R. No idea, it's just a stock claim trotted out in most literature discussing ADA. California is one of them, hence the redoubtable Mr. Jarek Molski. Commented Sep 6, 2023 at 20:11

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