About Accessibility

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The Unruh Civil Rights Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act
Barrier removal tax incentives

The Unruh Civil Rights Act (State of California)
The Unruh Civil Rights Act is a piece of California legislation that specifically outlaws discrimination based on age, sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, marital status, or sexual orientation. This law applies to all businesses including but not limited to; hotels and motels, restaurants, theaters, hospitals, barber and beauty shops, housing accommodations and retail establishments. This law was enacted in 1959, and was named for the author Jesse M. Unruh. The Unruh Civil Rights Act is codified as California Civil Code section 51.

Its far-reaching intent was conveyed in its introduction which stated: “All persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal, and no matter what their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, marital status, or sexual orientation are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.”

ADA: The Americans with Disabilities Act (Federal law)
ADA Summary
This is a brief overview which cannot possibly set forth everything about the ADA and which, for purposes of brevity or as part of an effort to state legal concepts simply and in plain English, may describe the law in a manner which is not necessarily precise and/or accurate in every respect.

Signed into law on July 26 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act is a wide-ranging legislation intended to make American Society more accessible to people with disabilities.

It is divided into five titles:
1) Employment (Title I) – Businesses must provide reasonable accommodations to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in all aspects of employment. Possible changes may include restructuring jobs, altering the layout of workstations, or modifying equipment. Employment aspects may include the application process, hiring, wages, benefits and all other aspects of employment. Medical examinations are highly regulated.

2) Public Services (Title II) – Public services, which include state and local government instrumentalities, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, and other commuter authorities, cannot deny services to people with disabilities participation in programs or activities which are available to people without disabilities. In addition, public transportation systems, such as public transit buses, must be accessible to individuals with disabilities.

3) Public Accommodations (Title III) – All new construction and modifications must be accessible to individuals with disabilities. For existing facilities, barriers to services must be removed if readily achievable. Public accommodations include facilities such as restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, retail stores, etc., as well as privately owned transportation systems.

4) Telecommunications (Title IV) – Telecommunication companies offering telephone service to the general public must have telephone relay service to individuals who use telecommunication devices for the deaf (TTYs) or similar devices.

5) Miscellaneous (Title V) – Includes a provision prohibiting either (a) coercing or threatening or (b) retaliating against the disabled or those attempting to aid people with disabilities in asserting their rights under the ADA.

The ADA’s protection applies primarily, but not exclusively, to “disabled” individuals. An individual is “disabled” if he or she meets at least any one of the following tests:
1) He or she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of his/her major life activities;
2) He or she has a record of such an impairment; or
3) He or she is regarded as having such an impairment.

Other individuals who are protected in certain circumstances include 1) those, such as parents, who have an association with an individual known to have a disability, and 2) those who are coerced or subjected to retaliation for assisting people with disabilities in asserting their rights under the ADA.

While the employment provisions of the ADA apply to employers of fifteen employees or more, its public accommodations provisions apply to all sizes of business, regardless of number of employees. State and local governments are covered regardless of size.

Places of Public Accommodation

Contrary to popular belief, places of public accommodation built before the bill’s passing in 1991 are not “grandfathered” in and therefore exempt to current ADA standard. For places of public accommodation, readily achievable barrier removal is an ongoing obligation under the ADA.

Places of public accommodation – Title lll establishes specific guidelines for places of public accommodation, whose operations effect commerce (provide goods & services to the public) and fall into one or more of the 12 specified categories:
1) Places of public lodging.
2) Establishments serving food or drink open to the public.
3) Places of exhibition or entertainment open to the public.
4) Places of public gathering.
5) Sales or rental establishments open to the public.
6) Service establishments open to the public.
7) Stations used for public transportation.
8) Places of public display or collection.
9) Places of public recreation.
10) Places of public education.
11) Social service center establishments open to the public.
12) Places of exercise or recreation open to the public.

Readily Achievable means easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense. Unfortunately, the term readily achievable can be interpreted in many ways. In determining whether an action is readily achievable, factors to be considered include:
(1) The nature and cost of the action needed under this part;
(2) The overall financial resources of the site or sites involved in the action; the number of persons employed at the site; the effect on expenses and resources; legitimate safety requirements that are necessary for safe operation, including crime prevention measures; or the impact otherwise of the action upon the operation of the site.
(3) The geographic separateness and the administrative or fiscal relationship of the site or sites in question to any parent corporation or entity.
(4) If applicable, the overall financial resources of any parent corporation or entity; the overall size of the parent corporation or entity with respect to the number of its employees; the number, type, and location of its facilities.
(5) If applicable, the type of operation or operations of any parent corporation or entity, including the composition, structure, and functions of the workforce of the parent corporation or entity.

Commercial Facilities – are facilities that affect commerce but are not open to the public, such as office buildings or factories. Religious organizations and private clubs are exempt from the requirements of Title III of the ADA (but are not exempt by the California Building Code).

Commercial facilities are only subject to the requirements of Title lll for new construction and alterations.

Tax Credits and Deductions for Barrier Removal
Tax breaks are available for hiring persons with disabilities and for making improvements to facilities making them accessible to persons with disabilities. Incidentally, many of the accessibility changes make it easier for employees and customers with disabilities to do their job or conduct business. Consider these tax advantages:

Disabled Tax Credit
(Title 26, IRS, Section 44)
The Disabled Tax Credit is specifically geared to eligible small businesses for meeting increased expenses incurred in complying with the ADA. To qualify, a business must have fewer than 30 employees or a gross yearly income of less than $1 million. The allowable amount of tax credit is equal to 50 percent of the expenditures in excess of $250, but not more than $10,250. In other words, the maximum that can be claimed in any tax year under this provision is $5,125.

Eligible expenditures may include removing architectural, communication or transportation barriers, providing qualified readers, taped texts, interpreters, the myriad of technical assistive devices and offsetting the purchase or modification of equipment and devices for individuals with disabilities.

Architectural and Transportation Barrier Removal Tax Deduction
(Title 26, IRS, Section 190)
Any private business may claim up to $15,000 per tax year for making its premises or public transportation vehicles more accessible to persons with disabilities or the elderly. Eligible expenditures may include installing ramps, widening doorways, modifying restrooms, or equipping a shuttle van with a lift. The incentives may be applied to a variety of expenditures; however, they may not be applied to the costs of new construction. All barrier removal must comply with applicable Federal accessibility standards.

In its simplest form, an income tax deduction is a reduction in taxable income. While tax deductions work by lowering taxable income, tax credits are a direct reduction of the tax due.

Architectural and Transportation Barrier Removal Tax Deduction (Title 26, IRS, Section 190)

Facts About Disability-Related Tax Provisions


Disabled Lawyer Scott Johnson cranks out ADA lawsuits

Anatomy of an ADA Lawsuit

Avoiding ADA Lawsuits


ADA Guide for Small Business


Federal Department of Justice: ADA Homepage

USDOJ 2010 Regulations for Title II and Title III – Effective March 15, 2011

“NEW” ADA Standards: 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design

United States Access Board

Caltrans Accessibility


California Division of the State Architect

California Civil Code Section 55.51–‐55.54


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