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The last few years have been very hectic for all facilities managers. During these busy times, it is vital for every facility manager to be aware and informed of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal civil rights law that is complaint driven. Unlike building codes, the ADA is enforced either through investigations performed by the U.S. Department of Justice or by the federal courts; both stemming from complaints or allegations received from individuals with disabilities.
ADA litigation has increased exponentially, and ADA compliance is necessary to avoid facing severe consequences. With COVID-19 still top of mind in many facilities, managers need to ensure they are not violating ADA regulations while making the building safe for occupants. Hand sanitizer stands, temperature scanning kiosks and other additions have been placed in entryways and affixed to hallway walls. While this has helped facilities remain open, unfortunately, these measures may have also violated ADA regulations.
In her session “Don’t Let ADA Fall Through the Cracks” at NFMT Remix in Las Vegas, industry expert Joan Stein will identify proactive steps and strategies that can be taken to help facility managers manage their risks.
NFMT: Why are so many facilities in violation of ADA requirements?
Stein: Unfortunately, the ADA has always been a “forgotten law.” Unlike OSHA or EPA, there are no inspections. Design professionals and code officials do not pay a lot of attention to it. The regulations are 30 years old, the law was signed 32 years ago — that’s a long time.
NFMT: What were some of the biggest ADA-related mistakes made because of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Stein: It is not unreasonable for ADA to have taken a back seat to a public health epidemic. What it did was reduce the number of tables in restaurants, made education for children with disabilities difficult and/or impossible and made things difficult for people with medical conditions who could not safely wear masks. Masks made communication difficult to impossible for individuals with a whole range of hearing and/or speech disabilities who rely on lip reading to effectively communicate. These are but a few examples .
NFMT: What are some tips facility managers can do to ensure they are in compliance with ADA?
Stein: Be aware of your facility: do a “check up” of accessibility elements on a regular basis. Educate staff to not create barriers that are not built into the building.
NFMT: If facility managers need to make adjustments to their facility to comply with ADA, any suggestions for presenting a case to management to approve expenses?
Stein: Making modifications on your own timetable, etc, is much better than waiting for a complaint to land on your desk. Litigation and attorneys cost a lot of money that could be better spent opening your building to visitors, employees or customers.
NFMT Remix takes place in Las Vegas, Nov. 2-3. For more information, visit www.nfmt.com/vegas.
Dan Weltin is the editor-in-chief for the facility market. He has nearly 20 years of experience covering the facility management and commercial cleaning industries.
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