Businesses that provide goods and services to the public are subject to many federal regulations. They have an obligation to accommodate their workers in certain regards and also to make their facilities accessible to members of the general public. Those with disabling medical conditions often require different amenities than the average consumer.
They may require wider doors to enter despite using crutches or a wheelchair. They may require a ramp because using a staircase would be physically prohibitive. Depending on the facilities and the type of business, there could be allegations that a company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to provide appropriate access to the physical premises.
New construction should always be accessible
The ADA and other federal regulations impose the most obligations on new construction, as every new building should theoretically comply with accessibility standards. These include providing ramps with appropriate inclines and doors that people can operate without needing to physically move or hold them open. There should also be two-way communication if the building is secure and not immediately open to the public.
However, it is not always appropriate or reasonable to demand that every small business alter its facilities to make them accessible. For example, perhaps a building has stood for decades and has historic value. It could be both highly expensive and damaging to the character of the building to alter the façade to allow for a larger door and a wheelchair ramp.
Businesses with pre-existing facilities that would be difficult or prohibitive to alter for accessibility purposes can sometimes provide alternate means of access to those with disabling medical conditions. Phone support, digital appointments and other technological solutions can be one way for a business to provide the same services and opportunities to those that cannot physically access a building.
Other times, it may be necessary to alter a business’s spaces to allow people of all physical conditions to enter the premises. Evaluating a business model and a physical space can help those who own or operate an organization better determine what accessibility adjustments they will need to make to their premises to meet and maintain ADA compliance.