ADA: Debunking Compliance Myths

  July 13, 2012

I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, debunking ADA compliance myths.

The first enforceable provision of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for public accommodations and commercial facilities began in 1992. Since then, maintenance and engineering managers have had to remove barriers to access in all existing facilities. Readily-achievable barrier removal continues to be an ongoing obligation.

Still, for the past 20 years, thousands of ADA cases have been filed in federal courts across the United States, as well as through the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the federal agency responsible for enforcing ADA standards for facilities. What accounts for failure to comply with ADA requirements after 20 years? There are a variety of myths and misunderstandings.

• Code. Some managers believe that since a local code official has not had to do an inspection, the facility is compliant. But code officials never inspect existing facilities for accessibility. That is because building codes do not have the same provision for "readily-achievable barrier removal" as ADA. What's more, code officials are not empowered to enforce ADA.

• Costs. Some managers assume it will be too costly to comply, so they do nothing. But it is a mistake to automatically assume the costs will be too high without breaking the process down and identifying barriers that can be removed over a period of time. Also, under Internal Revenue Service code, businesses of any size can take an expense deduction of up to $15,000 per year for costs of removing barriers in facilities.

• Grandfathering. Some managers believe their buildings are grandfathered because they were built before ADA took effect. In fact, all buildings where goods or services are sold or provided have been required to comply with ADA since 1992. There is no grandfathering provision.


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