As a restaurant owner or manager, you will be both an employer and someone who operates a business to the public, which means it must be accessible to disabled persons in many different ways. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will affect your company’s operations in a major way. Not knowing the details of this law and the hundreds of regulations enacted under the law can have a significant adverse affect on your business.
Companies that have workers and that deal with public accommodations will generally have two different typos obligations under the ADA, namely, obligations to your customers, and obligations to your employees.
Most employers have an obligation to accommodate workers with disabilities
Whether you have a competent job applicant who has a condition that requires some support or a staff member who got hurt on the job, your business will likely need to work with employees who have disabilities and help them perform their jobs. If you employ at least 15 workers, you have an obligation to assist and work with those who have disabilities. Please note, that the 15 employee exception does not apply to your obligations to your customers – the public. Obligations to your customers under the ADA (see below) still exist if you have fewer than 15 employees or no employees.
With regard to ADA obligations to employees, the ADA requires that companies provide their workers with reasonable accommodations for their disabilities. A “reasonable accommodation” can take many different forms, from temporality changing their job responsibilities while they are recovering from an injury, to allowing some minor change to their work area. There are thousands of different situations and each situation can be unique.
Under the ADA, Businesses (and Landlords) that serve the public must make their premises accessible
The second type of obligation you will face under the ADA is ADA compliance from the public, your customers, and your if you are the landlord, your tenant’s customers.
Your business needs to be accessible both from the outside in, as well as inside. A path of travel to the entryway or an entryway, means for example, if the surface leading to the entry is not relatively level, you may need to offer ramps to get to the entryway, or an alternative entry into your resturant, as well as accessible parking. Inside you will need to provide accessible features. Older buildings may not need to do as much as newer or remodeled buildings. Disabilities’ can be many different types, from people who use wheelchairs, canes, walkers or crutches. Tables and seating options should also be accessible. You will need to ensure that your bathrooms are accessible as well.
Other ADA compliance issues may include helping customers who can’t see the menu, either through providing Braille or through staff support and signage for bathrooms that include Braille.
Whether you want to review your business model for compliance issues before you open or face a claim by recent guests, understanding your obligations is a business can go a long way toward avoiding claims that you don’t accommodate those with disabilities.