Last 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. The ADA prohibits discriminatino against people with disabilities in several aspects of life, including employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications, and access to state and local government programs and services. If your business or organization fits certain guidelines, ADA Compliance is mandatory.
People with disabilities struggle with physical and technical barriers on a daily basis. So the ADA protects their rights to have safe access to public spaces. Understanding the accessibility standards for ADA Compliance – as well as the consequences for non-compliance – is essential for any business owner. It is the first step to providing safety and convenience that your customers deserve and abiding by the law.
What is ADA Compliance?
Being ADA compliant means that your business meets the standards for accessibility as stated in the ADA. Accessibility spans all aspects of your business from the property and facilities itself, to the information provided, forms of communication, customer service, and everything in between.
Since it is a civil rights law, the United States Department of Justice implements and regulates it. Being non-compliant may cause serious problems for your business or organization. Below are the following areas of concern for non-compliant businesses:
- Hefty fines
The federal law allows fines of up to $75,000 for the first ADA violation and $150,000 for additional violations. State and local governments may vary in having more fines and requirements (for accessibility standards higher than that in the ADA) for businesses in their locality. It is in your best interest to invest in ADA-approved access requirements for your facility or website.
- Lawsuits involving people with disabilities
Government agencies, municipalities, recreational facilities, and small businesses that do not provide accessible public accommodations are vulnerable to lawsuits, personal injury claims, and legal or civil penalties if a disabled visitor files a claim against them. The ADA mandates that reasonable modifications be made to (old) buildings and facilities that may contain physical barriers that make it difficult for people with disabilities to access or maneuver in.
It is highly recommended to undergo an inspection with a Certified Access Specialist (CASp) because they will conduct a full inspection of your property and specifically tell you the areas that need improvement. This will not only ensure ADA Compliance, but you are also providing a convenient experience for all your customers or visitors and safeguarding your business from the possibility of lawsuit claims against accessibility.
- Damaged reputation
Lastly, the consequence of a damaged reputation can be a nightmare. Getting caught – or worse, sued – for non-compliance and violation of the ADA damages the image of your business and brand when it becomes public information. Providing safe access to disabled persons shows that the ethics of your business and your operations are of high level – worthy of the respect and support of the general public.
Now, you might be wondering what businesses are covered by the ADA.
How does a small business comply with the ADA?
To confirm if your small business is required to meet ADA Compliance, you may want to read Title I and III of the ADA.
Title I of the ADA discusses employment, and the ADA defines an “employer” as any person who is:
- Engaged in an industry affecting commerce
- Employs 15 or more full-time employees each work day
- Operational for at least 20 calendar weeks in each year
“Small” businesses that do not meet at least one of these conditions are not required to be ADA compliant.
Besides the section on Employment, Title III focuses on private and public entities considered to be public accommodations or providing goods and services to the general public. These public accommodations have the following categories:
- Stores and shops
- Restaurants and bars
- Service establishments
- Theaters and hotels
- Private museums and schools
- Doctors and dentist’s offices
- Shopping malls and other businesses
Nearly any business that is open to the public is included in this section of the ADA, regardless of the size or age of its facilities. However, commercial facilities such as offices, factories, and warehouses are only subject to ADA requirements for new construction and alterations. This is because these facilities do not directly provide goods or services to the public.
The ADA guidelines require small business owners to make reasonable efforts to accommodate any individual with a disability. These efforts will surely go a long way because as you invest in providing access to all, more people will support and return to your business!