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With ADA compliance, many facility managers must be concerned with more than the bricks and sticks. Policies, procedures and operational issues can demand just as much attention.
That's because changes made by DOJ involve more than design and construction issues. There are a host of new requirements for policies and procedures that affect all public accommodations. These include policies on the availability of accessible seating and ticketing policies, policies on reservations for accessible guest rooms in transient lodging, policies on the use of service animals, and policies on the use of wheelchairs and other power-driven mobility devices (e.g., Segways).
These new rules will become effective on March 15, 2011. Facility managers can prepare for those by doing the following:
1. If the facility is an assembly area, such as sports, entertainment or performance venues, review existing policies and procedures for the availability, dispersal and sale of wheelchair seating. If there is no policy, now's the time to develop one.
2. Facility managers at all public accommodations, including commercial office buildings, need to review or develop policies on service animals, power-driven mobility devices and effective communications.
Having thorough policies and procedures and communicating to employees is critical. One can build the Taj Mahal of accessibility, but if someone with a disability is not treated appropriately by security, receptionists or sales people, one may wind up talking to a federal judge or the Justice Department.
Remember that the ADA is a complaint-driven law, and it's not going away. Also keep in mind that people with disabilities represent the largest and fastest growing minority in the United States — and the one with the greatest spending power. Don't lock customers out and risk a lawsuit (or bad publicity) at the same time. Be proactive in ADA compliance efforts and maximize the return on investment. It's the right thing to do, and it's the smart thing to do.
Joan Weiss Stein (firstname.lastname@example.org) is president and CEO of Accessibility Development Associates, Inc. (ADA, Inc.) a Pittsburgh-based national ADA consulting firm. The firm has been providing ADA consulting services to publicly and privately-owned entities nationally since 1992.
What Should FMs Do Now?
CONFIRM the status of all existing projects to ensure that they are in compliance with the appropriate ADA standards.
REVIEW the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, which can be downloaded from the DOJ website at www.ada.gov.
DON'T assume that complying with the building code will cover you for ADA compliance.
IF you have done any renovations or new construction, make sure you've completed a thorough ADA evaluation of your facility. If you haven't, do it now. The requirement for "readily-achievable barrier removal" started on Jan. 26, 1992, and it hasn't gone away.
COORDINATE efforts with others in your organization who may have responsibilities for security, sales or operations to review (or develop) accessibility policies and procedures. Communicating with each other will be critical.
— Joan Stein
ADA: Impact on Operations