Especially if your business is a small operation, you might hope that local customers won’t expect you to provide the same extensive accommodations that a multinational corporation could. You might rent a basic commercial space and put up a simple website to start developing your business.
Ignoring the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as it applies to how you accommodate the public could be a very costly mistake. Even the smallest business would benefit from proactively assessing its facilities and amenities for ADA compliance.
The alternative is to wait for an issue to arise, at which point, the issue could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
ADA complaints are often very expensive
Perhaps customers have to arrange for their orders on your website, and your retail pages are not compliant with screen reader software that allow individuals with visual impairment to access the internet. Maybe you rented a small retail shop and a visitor alleges that there is no safe way for someone in a wheelchair to access your facilities or use your bathroom.
Even if the party who intends to bring a claim against your business has never actually patronized the company or physically visited your premises, they could file a complaint against you that leads to massive fines. A first-time ADA fine could cost as much as $75,000, and businesses accused of multiple or repeat infractions may have to pay individual fines of as much as $150,000.
Those fines will be in addition to whatever legal and court costs the business incurs defending itself and the cost of redoing a website or adding accessible entrances to the building. Instead of waiting for someone to bring a complaint that could lead to a five-figure fine and expensive changes to your company’s facilities or operations, it is often a much safer and more cost-effective solution to identify those changes now and start performing them before allegations arise.
If you can show that your business has been proactive in its attempt to accommodate members of the public, that could deter or help you defend against claims that you violated the ADA in the future. Recognizing that even small businesses could face expensive ADA lawsuits could help entrepreneurs better protect themselves.