As a business owner, you know there are countless things you must think about, from running your company, to payroll to employee management. It can sometimes seem overwhelming and it's easy to overlook some things, such as handicap accessibility and ADA compliance. However, failure to consider the ongoing legal compliance with the ADA, can result in costly endless litigation. This can have a significant financial impact and, as with any litigation, it is always a time-consuming distraction from your business.
The Americans with Disabilities Act attempts to protect the rights and interests of individuals with disabilities. This law means that certain aspects of your businesses will likely need to be ADA compliant. ADA compliance is very technical. You are not compliant simply because you have attempted some do-it-yourself modifications, or because your disabled customers seem to have no problems at your business. It's essential to take the time to review the standards with an expert to determine what aspects of your business, if any, do not meet ADA requirements, and if there are any exceptions that might apply, including the “not readily achievable” defense.
Does the ADA apply to your business?
It is a very rare situation where at least some aspect of the ADA would not apply to your business. There are thousands of people who now make a living by looking at, or going into, businesses looking for some small thing that is not ADA compliant, and when the see the violation, they file lawsuits. In most cases, the owner was never aware of these small items, and frankly, most attorneys and contractors, are unaware them too. The requirements are very technical, very complex, and very detailed. Some of the ways the ADA may affect your business include:
- Providing ADA compliant parking and a proper path of travel to the entryway
- Providing and ADA compliant path of travel from a city sidewalk
- Providing ADA compliant path of travel inside a business
- Providing the correct transaction counter height
- Providing proper height of items a customer may need to reach
- Addressing the recent avalanche of ADA website lawsuits over a business’s website
- Allowing service animals to enter the building with their owners
- Providing accommodations to people who have trouble with communication
- Reading things or providing explanations in Braille to customers with vision issues
- Providing a ramp for wheelchair-bound customers if your business has stairs
These are only a few examples of how you may have to make adjustments to your business to meet the standards set forth by the ADA. Compliance is usually a complex matter, and how to apply these requirements to your business almost never will be found by an internet search. Working with an expert ADA inspector, sometimes called a CASp inspector in California, and a top ADA attorney, is the only way to protect yourself and your business. You should know that while ADA inspectors can often tell you if some aspect of your business does not meet a particular ADA code, usually inspectors defer to an ADA attorney to say if an exception applies under the “non-readily achievable” provisions of the ADA, and these inspectors also almost never address website ADA issues.