ADA Compliance: Myths and Misconceptions
January 12, 2015
More than 20 years after the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), some institutional and commercial facilities still are not compliant. How can that be? Maintenance and engineering managers and building owners often fall back on four misconceptions in seeking to justify their facilities’ non-compliance:
They fear that compliance with accessibility guidelines will be too costly. This is not true. While compliance is not necessarily expensive, non-compliance almost certainly could be.
They believe their existing buildings were grandfathered. In fact, no buildings were grandfathered under ADA. As of Jan. 26, 1992, all existing facilities were to begin the process of "readily achievable barrier removal," meaning that everyone was to review their facilities, identify barriers that could be removed, and begin that process. As renovations, alterations or new construction commenced, these all were to comply with the ADA standards. The premise or intent of the regulations was that over the course of time, all facilities eventually would comply with the accessibility requirements.
Some managers believe that because they have not performed any major work on their facilities, they do not need to worry about ADA compliance. But unlike building codes, ADA standards cover all facilities, regardless of when designed or constructed, and renovations, alterations or new construction do not trigger compliance requirements.
Some managers wait until they receive a complaint about accessibility before taking steps toward compliance. Or they believe a lack of complaints means their facilities are compliant. But the arrival of a complaint means managers lose control of the barrier-removal process. Once a complaint arrives, the courts or the U.S. Department of Justice will dictate steps that must be taken to remove barriers to accessibility, as well as their timing, and they will not consider financial constraints.