Excerpted from "Housing Rights of Persons With Disabilities" from Access Living of Chicago:
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires that all programs receiving federal funding, whether they are services (like counseling), activities (like senior citizen outings), or housing, be accessible to persons with disabilities. It adopts the concept of "programmatic accessibility." This means that all programs receiving federal funds need to be "readily accessible and usable by individuals with disabilities." Section 504 mandates that a recipient of federal money must give priority to methods that provide services to PWDs in the most integrated setting possible when choosing among alternatives that would make services possible.
Section 504 contains design requirements applicable to federally funded new construction public housing or assisted housing with five or more units in the same project constructed after July, 1988. It states that certain percentages of the housing must be fully accessible to persons with physical impairments (5%) and visual imapairments and/or hearing impairments (2%). It also grants the right to request and receive reasonable accommodations and modifications at no cost to the renter. On the following page, this manual discusses what is considered reasonable.
Structural changes in existing buildings, requested to make governmentally funded services accessible, may not be necessary except where such changes are readily achievable. If not easily achievable, services need to be offered in the most integrated accessible environment possible. For example, ramping a 7 inch step might be readily achievable but ramping a seven foot high flight of stairs may not. In the later instance, accessible services should be offered in an alternate, accessible location.