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On Notice: Responding to an ADA Complaint


What is the best way to proceed if you receive notice of an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) violation? 

If an institutional or commercial facility receives notification that means that either a complaint has been filed in federal court or that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has received a complaint or is investigating the facility. At that point, a manager should not say any of the following:
• "I didn’t know I had to comply."
• "We’ve never had anyone in here in a wheelchair, so why do I have to comply?"
• "See you in court."
• "The worst thing to say is, 'We can't afford to do anything.' "

The best reaction is to read or listen to what is being said, particularly if it is coming from the DOJ. If you receive a complaint filed in the court, read the allegations as just that — allegations. An individual with a disability might make allegations of violations that actually are not required under the ADA.

Be sure to evaluate your facility before responding or agreeing to a settlement so you know exactly what your facility's status is regarding ADA requirements. Do not jump into a settlement with that individual or group, and agree to remedy only the items they identified as they likely have not identified all issues.

In that scenario, the next complaint filed with items other than those you agreed to correct will become a new complaint. Review your entire facility, put a plan together and start the corrections so that when — not if — the next complaint or question arises, you have an answer and a plan.

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