How do I ask my landlord to build a handrail for my building?
October 29, 2017 8:13 PM   Subscribe

How do I ask my landlord to build a handrail for my building? Temporarily disabled edition.

THE PROBLEM: I unexpectedly need to have foot surgery and will be on crutches for at least six weeks. I'm not allowed to bear any weight on my injured foot.

THE BUILDING: This is in NYC. I live in a ground floor apartment and the building entrance is five steps up. The stairs are steep. I actually measured them, roughly 8"... with one step a full inch higher at 9"! (I know this is against standard building code, but I don't know if exceptions are made for older apartment buildings.) This is no handrail whatsoever. I know I can butt scooch, but this is an open, dirty building entrance with concrete steps. Plus, what if it rains? I also know that I can use crutches alone, but considering the steepness of the stairs, I feel it is far too risky. A fall could be treacherous for me and lead to another surgery.

So do I make a request to my landlord to build a handrail? How do I do this in the most effective way--yet still preserve a decent relationship with them. I would like to renew my lease next year. If they refuse to build them, what then?
posted by joeyjoejoejr to Law & Government (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
When is your surgery? I have doubts that you can ask for this and expect your landlord to put it up right away. If they are going to add a handrail, I would think that will have to conform to certain codes and be safe, which means they can't just do it right away. Is there not some sort of a side or back entrance with a ramp? I'd be surprised if there is absolutely no way to get into your building without a ramp. Maybe someone who is familiar with the law can chime in, but I don't think you being briefly disabled (having foot surgery and only being unable to walk for six weeks) affords you the same protections as a permanently or long-term disabled person under the ADA. You could request it and see what they say, but I'm not sure you're in a good position to make a big fuss.

What I would add is this: I broke my foot and discovered the entire world is not designed for disabled people, sadly. I could leave my apartment because it had a ramp with a railing, but trying to go anywhere else was either a huge pain in the ass or just impossible. So even if you get a railing outside your building, you should think about how difficult everything else may be. Honestly, I used Instacart for groceries, TaskRabbit for a couple random tasks, Caviar for dinner delivery sometimes, Amazon for everything else and Lyft to get to get anywhere. I didn't want to burden anyone, and the services that exist today make it that you don't need to. I worked from home and basically stayed in until my foot healed enough that I could put partial weight on it, which took about four weeks for me.
posted by AspirinPill at 8:40 PM on October 29, 2017 [3 favorites]

Then you just use the crutches. The handrail isn't that useful, anyway; you'll be hopping.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:41 PM on October 29, 2017 [6 favorites]

How much land do you have in front of the stairs before you hit public property (such as a sidewalk)? Is it possible to rent a ramp for the six week time period?
posted by crazycanuck at 9:01 PM on October 29, 2017

Arr, me hearty, if you can't walk the plank stairs with crutches, maybe you can with the iWalk 2.0 leg. Seriously, it's awesome. Comes with free pirate pizzaz.
posted by Thella at 10:01 PM on October 29, 2017 [5 favorites]

I was on crutches for nearly two years with a broken foot, half of that time living in a flat with a steep staircase con the street and another steep staircase inside the flat. Not once during that time did I ever use either handrail, because my hands were full of crutches. You really cannot use both at the same time, and stairs aren't actually hard with proper crutches (though I can imagine it being trickier with old-school under-the-armpit crutches.

Whichever type of crutches you end up with, a handrail won't help you.
posted by Dysk at 5:12 AM on October 30, 2017

RE: Crutches only. I thought I needed a handrail to prevent a fall, in case (god forbid) I lost my balance while on the stairs?
posted by joeyjoejoejr at 7:33 AM on October 30, 2017

If you're using crutches, your hands are full of crutches. If you do fall, you're not going to be able to grab anything anyway, and you're more likely to be able to pull a stumble back together by keeping a firm grip on your crutches and possibly repositioning one quickly.
posted by Dysk at 7:38 AM on October 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Building a handrail is likely to be quite expensive for your landlord. Considering that you only need this accommodation for six weeks I would expect the landlord to decline or, at the very least, to stall until you are off your crutches. The likelihood that you can get the landlord to construct a handrail for you right now is extremely unlikely in NYC. IMO you are better off thinking of other options for navigating those stairs. If you're determined to request this accommodation from your landlord, I would suggest that you research temporary handrails for stairs and include literature/links and pricing with your request letter.
posted by slkinsey at 8:24 AM on October 30, 2017

> Crutches only. I thought I needed a handrail to prevent a fall, in case (god forbid) I lost my balance while on the stairs?

The handrail won't prevent a fall. You prevent the fall by going extremely slowly and carefully. If you overbalance, in the absence of a handrail, you will throw yourself forward.

If you are in NYC and planning to commute to work via subway, etc, I think you might be underestimating how hampered your mobility will be in general. You will be incredibly slow. Escalators, not stairs, will be your nemesis.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:36 AM on October 30, 2017

I agree that you wouldn't use a handrail anyway if you're on crutches.

If you end up having to do the butt scoot, bring plastic trash bags with you everywhere or something like that to wrap around your butt and keep it clean? But I think you'll be able to do the stairs on crutches.

Regarding crutches, if you get the under the armpit style, it might be helpful to know that they aren't supposed to actually touch your armpit--you clamp the crutch between arm and ribcage, and your weight is born on your hands and arms. If you carry a bag, you'll want to lighten it and make sure it holds close to your body. A heavy bag with a long handle can swing around and throw your balance off.

I'm sorry you're going through this. It sounds like some challenging weeks ahead.
posted by purple_bird at 10:43 AM on October 30, 2017

I couldn't bear weight for nearly 12 weeks after a femur fx, and used crutches. Stairs were slow, but felt pretty safe. I think going up you step up with your good foot, then put the crutches on that new stair and step your good foot up another step. Going down you descend first with crutches, then step down. A handrail was present at the one house where I had about 8 stairs, and I never used it.
posted by MonsieurBon at 11:28 AM on October 30, 2017

I have to dissent here. I have spent, cumulatively, almost a year on crutches. There are many ways to navigate stairs with crutches.

The most stable way is to stack both crutches on one side, lean on the handrail with the other side, and lower yourself down step by step.

The least stable way is to crutch straight down the stairs.

You need the handrail.
posted by Dashy at 3:26 PM on October 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

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