ADA: Understanding Accessibility Guidelines

  October 7, 2014

There has been a rise in the number of ADA accessibility lawsuits filed against businesses and facilities for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in recent. These lawsuits have the potential to cost institutional and commercial facilities $5,000 or more per complaint.

The best defense against ADA lawsuits is to begin the process of removing accessibility barriers. Barriers are aspects of the built environment that lessen a disabled person's access. The removal process starts by assessing what needs to be done and then putting in place plans, procedures and policies to guide implementation.

The first step in this process is to understand the basics of the ADA. Title III of the ADA addresses public accommodations and commercial buildings. This section prohibits discrimination based on disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases or operates a place of public accommodation.

One of the most important things to understand is that the ADA is a civil rights law, not a building code. Local building code officials do not oversee enforcement of the ADA. Enforcement occurs when discrimination is alleged through private suit or by certain federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Justice. Just because plans are approved by building inspectors or other officials does not mean the building will be ADA compliant.

To truly know how you are doing, you should consult with a professional for specific details related to your business. They can perform an accessibility audit on the facility. The audit should include the exterior and interior. The exterior audit of the property should include the path of travel from the street, parking and public transportation. The interior audit should include all areas accessed by visitors, customers and vendors.


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