ADA Complaints: How Facility Managers Can Evaluate Their Risks
• Changes. Some facility managers believe that, because they haven't done any major work to their buildings, there's no need to meet ADA requirements. However, unlike building code, ADA covers all facilities, regardless of when designed or constructed, and is not triggered solely by renovations, alterations or new construction.
• Complaints. Some facility managers wait until they get a complaint before doing anything, or believe lack of complaints means that their building is compliant. But waiting for the complaint to arrive means that the facility manager has no control over the barrier removal process. The courts or DOJ will dictate what has to be done and when, and will not consider financial constraints. With DOJ, there is an added penalty, starting at $55,000.
Evaluate Your Risk Level
Clearly, all these reasons — or excuses — create risk management issues for the facility manager. Eight questions can help facility managers determine their level of risk for an ADA complaint from an individual or DOJ:
1. Have we evaluated our facility for ADA barriers?
2. Have we been performing readily achievable barrier removal since January 1992?
3. Have we ensured that any modifications, alterations, additions or new construction after 1992 were in full compliance with the 1991 standards?
4. Have we ensured that the facility's accessible features are maintained in working order (i.e., door closers, sidewalks, ramps, handrails, grab bars, etc.)?
5. Have we converted to the 2010 ADA Standards for any barrier removal, alterations or construction? (If you are still working on a project that was permitted before March 15, 2012 using the 1991 ADA standards, complete the project using those standards.)
6. Have we looked at the new standards for policies and procedures that went into effect on March 15, 2011 for service animals, effective communication, mobility devices and ticket sales?
7. Have we reviewed the new elements contained in the 2010 ADA Standards and put together a plan to review our facility for those areas and elements?
8. Have we been documenting all of our ADA compliance efforts?
Each "no" answer increases your risk. But it's not too late to take the actions to turn your no answers to yes. Even if you can't bring all of your facilities into immediate compliance, taking action will at least show that you are making a good faith effort to remove barriers, comply with ADA standards, and maintain the accessible features of your facility.
Joan Weiss Stein is president and CEO of Accessibility Development Associates, Inc. (ADA, Inc.), a Pittsburgh-based national ADA consulting firm. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Swimming Pool Rules Delayed
On March 15, 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a 60-day extension for implementation of requirements for existing swimming pools that are part of the 2010 ADA Standards. Those requirements were to have taken effect the day the extension was announced. Then, on March 21, 2012, DOJ published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking with a 15-day comment period on a possible six-month extension in order to allow additional time to address some misunderstandings regarding compliance with ADA requirements for swimming pools.
New ADA Rules
The 2010 ADA standards are now required for all barrier removal, alterations and new construction. Learn more at facilitiesnet.com/12224bom