Close this search box.

Americans With Disabilities Act Overrides Local Zoning Rules

Print Article


George and Astrid Dadian live in the Village of Wilmette, Illinois. The Dadians both have medical problems—she suffers from osteoporosis and asthma, and he from orthopedic problems. That is why they wanted their reconstructed home to have a garage that could be reached from the front curb.

The Dadians have lived in Wilmette for forty two years. Their home, like most in the Village, has a garage that is accessible only from the back of the lot. They plan an extensive reconstruction, however, and they hope to move the new garage entrance around to the front of the house. This would shorten the distance Mrs. Dadian has to back up to get out their garage, and her doctors agree that the change would be better for her, since she would not have to twist and turn for as long when backing out.

Neighbors of the Dadians are concerned about the safety of small children if Ms. Dadian has trouble turning around long enough to back up to the residential street. The Village suggested that the Dadians look into putting in a back-yard turnabout to limit Mrs. Dadian’s backup distance, but the couple rejected that approach because it would cost them most of their back yard.

Under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (the ADA), the Dadians’ zoning problems became a legal issue. They argued before a federal judge and jury in Illinois that the Village’s refusal to permit the front access amounted to discrimination against them based on their disabilities.

The Village objected, arguing that the Dadians are not disabled within the meaning of the ADA, and that the law does not require the Village to approve this curb cut even if it does apply. After a jury trial, the Village was ordered to approve the front access to the Dadians’ garage, and the Village appealed.

The ADA prevents governmental or private discrimination against the disabled, and defines disability very broadly. According to the federal Court of Appeals Mrs. Dadian fits within the law’s definition because she suffers physical impairments that substantially limit a major life activity. Mr. Dadian’s disability status is less clear, but the ADA applies even if only one spouse is disabled.

Once Mrs. Dadian’s disability is established, the ADA requires local governments to provide make accommodations for her disabilities. The appeals court agreed that the front-access curb cut was reasonable, especially since six of the sixteen homes on the Dadians’ block already have similar front or side access. Dadian v. Village of Wilmette, October 18, 2001.

The ADA (and the related Fair Housing Act Amendments of 1988) can overrule local zoning restrictions. Based on those laws, local governments and private businesses can be forced to show that rules and decisions reasonably accommodate the needs of the disabled.

Stay up to date

Subscribe to our Newsletter to get our takes on some of the situations families, seniors, and individuals with disabilities find themselves in. These posts help guide you in the decision making process and point out helpful tips and nuances to take advantage of. Enter your email below to have our entries sent directly to your inbox!

Robert B. Fleming


Robert Fleming is a Fellow of both the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He has been certified as a Specialist in Estate and Trust Law by the State Bar of Arizona‘s Board of Legal Specialization, and he is also a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Robert has a long history of involvement in local, state and national organizations. He is most proud of his instrumental involvement in the Special Needs Alliance, the premier national organization for lawyers dealing with special needs trusts and planning.

Robert has two adult children, two young grandchildren and a wife of over fifty years. He is devoted to all of them. He is also very fond of Rosalind Franklin (his office companion corgi), and his homebound cat Muninn. He just likes people, their pets and their stories.

Elizabeth N.R. Friman


Elizabeth Noble Rollings Friman is a principal and licensed fiduciary at Fleming & Curti, PLC. Elizabeth enjoys estate planning and helping families navigate trust and probate administrations. She is passionate about the fiduciary work that she performs as a trustee, personal representative, guardian, and conservator. Elizabeth works with CPAs, financial professionals, case managers, and medical providers to tailor solutions to complex family challenges. Elizabeth is often called upon to serve as a neutral party so that families can avoid protracted legal conflict. Elizabeth relies on the expertise of her team at Fleming & Curti, and as the Firm approaches its third decade, she is proud of the culture of care and consideration that the Firm embodies. Finding workable solutions to sensitive and complex family challenges is something that Elizabeth and the Fleming & Curti team do well.

Amy F. Matheson


Amy Farrell Matheson has worked as an attorney at Fleming & Curti since 2006. A member of the Southern Arizona Estate Planning Council, she is primarily responsible for estate planning and probate matters.

Amy graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in political science and English. She is an honors graduate of Suffolk University Law School and has been admitted to practice in Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Prior to joining Fleming & Curti, Amy worked for American Public Television in Boston, and with the international trade group at White & Case, LLP, in Washington, D.C.

Amy’s husband, Tom, is an astronomer at NOIRLab and the Head of Time Domain Services, whose main project is ANTARES. Sadly, this does not involve actual time travel. Amy’s twin daughters are high school students; Finn, her Irish Red and White Setter, remains a puppy at heart.

Famous people's wills

Matthew M. Mansour


Matthew is a law clerk who recently earned his law degree from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. His undergraduate degree is in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Matthew has had a passion for advocacy in the Tucson community since his time as a law student representative in the Workers’ Rights Clinic. He also has worked in both the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. He enjoys playing basketball, caring for his cat, and listening to audiobooks narrated by the authors.