When you purchased the building for your business, you probably took care to ensure that your bathrooms, doorways and other parts of the building were compliant with the guidelines in the Americans with Disabilities Act. These rules provide accessibility to those who have disabilities that may otherwise make it difficult or impossible for them to do business with you.
However, it is important not to overlook one of the most common places where those with disabilities may encounter challenges: the walkways leading to your entryway from both parking area and also from city sidewalks. A walkway that is not ADA compliant can hinder someone who is disabled, and it also may place that person at risk of injury. Within a building, clear pathways also need to be available.
Meeting ADA requirements
Walkways provide the routes most of your clients and visitors will take, so it is wise to invest some time and money into making them safe and accessible. If you fail to do this, not only is someone at risk of injury, but you may also face an ADA lawsuit if someone with a disability files an ADA claim against you. The answers to the following questions may help you determine if your walkways meet the standards set by the ADA:
- Are they wide enough? Nationally, ADA requires outside walkways (also called access routes or paths of travel) to be at least 36 inches wide, but in California the general rule is 48 inches. Nationally, if yours are narrower than 60 inches, you must include passing spaces every 200 feet. Inside a building the general rule is 36 inches, and through a doorway allowing for the door jam and hardware, this can narrow to 32 inches “clear”.
- Are the walkways and sidewalks incorrectly sloped? Generally, a walkway may have a pitch up to 4% grade without having to have handrails, but the side-to-side slope (also called “cross-slope”) should not be more than a 2% grade. Long walkways may also require an occasional area where the slope is no more than 2%. A grade of more than 4% and up to about 8% would be considered a ramp and is subject to additional requirements such as proper handrails.
- Is the texture safe? Walkways and Sidewalks must be slip-resistant with a firm, stable surface.
- Do they have adequate curb ramps? Curb ramps aid those who are blind or using a wheelchair, but they must have an ADA-approved slope and be easily detectable, such as a contrasting color.
- Are there trip hazards? A walkway or sidewalk with cracks or more than ¼ inch difference between surfaces is a hazard that may endanger any pedestrian but especially someone who is blind or using a walker.
Cracks and uneven surfaces are among the most common ADA walkway sidewalk violations California businesses face. If you notice cracks in your sidewalk, it is smart to address this hazard immediately to protect your visitors as well as protecting yourself from an expensive lawsuit. However, if, despite your efforts, you do find yourself facing a claim for violating the rules set by the ADA, you can reach out for assistance from an attorney who is familiar with ADA laws and dedicated to defending business owners against drive-by lawsuits.