3 benefits of having a CASp certification for your property
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It has been more than 3 decades now since the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed. After thirty years, you might expect that the protections now in place for persons with disabilities are now much more common practice and there are fewer violations to be found. But as technology progresses and more disabilities are acknowledged, there is still more work to be done.
The Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA is an important civil rights legislation that makes it illegal to discriminate against anyone based on the presence of disability. It covers both public and private entities and the punishment for violations comes in the form of fines and payment for legal fees. For businesses especially those with small operations, this means an unnecessary burden on capital. That is why many now opt to secure a CASp certification for their properties as advance protection for a construction-related accessibility claim.
In 2008, Senate Bill 1608 (SB 1608) set the opening for a CASp program.
To know the accessibility status of facilities, business owners can voluntarily hire a CASp for evaluation. As mandated by SB 1608, a Certified Access Specialist or CASp will check your property to see if it meets applicable standards. CASps will test a facility to find out how compliant it is to the ADA and will help schedule a doable process whereby business owners can apply changes to become more accessible. The formal reports access specialists furnish is not a prerequisite to opening your business but in some cases like in California, where ADA lawsuits abound, the law requires that a property disclose whether or not is has undergone a CASp certification.
If your business falls short of construction-related accessibility standards, the access specialist can still certify that your property has at least been CASp-inspected. This still provides you with the same benefits as businesses that have been tested and certified by the state to be ADA compliant. What is important is that you use the findings of the CASp inspection report to plan accordingly based on your budget so that you can improve your facility for disability access.
The services of a CASp can cost anywhere upwards of $800 depending on the size of your establishment. But this is nothing compared to the savings it will give you via the prevention of lawsuits.
Those who apply to become CASps take an examination administered by the Division of State Architect. This organizational unit takes a look at the qualifications of a CASp program candidate to see if their experience covers the technical skills required to be a specialist. Passing a CASp exam requires an advanced level of understanding for ADA legislation. That is why professionals who pass this program are sufficiently qualified to conduct CASp certification and are able to advise owners on how to meet ADA requirements.
Since a CASp inspection is now an important investment for your business, you will be glad to know that it comes with benefits for you and your property.
ADA litigation is one of the worst nightmares for any business owner. But if your business has a CASp report under its belt, you might be able to breathe a little bit easier. When you obtain an inspection report, this grants you the safeguard of being a “qualified defendant” in a state and federal construction-related accessibility case. But that is only if you have already hired access specialists to inspect your buildings to ensure compliance with disability access standards prior to the filing of a claim.
This status paves the way for you to be able to do the following: negotiate with the complainant and correct your access oversight. All without possibly needing the help of a lawyer.
As a qualified defendant, you are afforded a 60-day stay for postponing legal proceedings. During this period, you might be able to settle with the plaintiff to avoid the costs of further litigation. You can also enact improvements to your property to address the violation raised.
While the stated reason for a lawsuit is an alleged access compliance violation, there are two possible reasons behind this complaint. On the one hand, you might be being sued because someone is looking to gain easy money through statutory damages. After all, each violation of the ADA is also a violation of the Unruh Act in California and thus awards plaintiffs with at least $4,000 for each claim. On the other hand, individuals with disabilities are probably just trying to reach out to you to ensure your compliance with applicable anti-discrimination laws. Just the same, settling the matter out of a legal proceeding is more beneficial to you than going through the longer and more tedious process.
As a qualified defendant, you are also entitled to an early evaluation conference, wherein an officer of the court will oversee negotiation between you and the plaintiff. During this conference, the two parties can see if it will be amenable for either or both to reach a settlement.
Whether they decide to hire a CASp before or after getting sued, it is a forgone conclusion that business owners may need to acquire the services of a CASp at some point. The fact of the matter is, ADA litigation is a constant risk because there is no business that is always 100% in compliance. Regulations change and technologies improve. All it needs is for a guideline to be updated with the difference of 1 inch from the previous standard for a business to land a fresh access lawsuit.
As they say, prevention is always better than cure. With a CASp inspection report as proof of your due diligence, you can sleep more easily knowing that a violation won’t cost you tens of thousands of dollars.
It provides you with an underrated benefit as well. By being ADA compliant, you open your business to more customers because according to the CDC, 1 in 4 Americans live with some form of disability. You are not just saving money, you are also making money. It is one of those few times when doing the right thing actually pays!
Feel free to contact us and you may request for more information about certified access specialists in your area.
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