Category: ada compliance.     Publish Date: July 22, 2020.

ADA Guide

The civil rights movement of the 1960s did an incredible amount of good helping to open up our society, of making the places where we live, work, and play more available to different types of people.  However, the original gains of that movement needed to continue to be expanded. In particular, people with disabilities were often unintentionally excluded, because facilities were impossible for them to access.  Through decades of hard work fighting to be recognized and included, people with disabilities won a huge milestone on July 26, 1990, when the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) became law.  The law was further expanded and improved in 2009 with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA), that makes changes to the law, including accessibility standards for websites and new definitions of the term “disability.”

What is The ADA and Title III?

The ADA prohibits any discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life. It is divided into five titles that each deal with a distinct aspect of what it means to give people with disabilities the same opportunities afforded other people.  If you are a person with a business  who wants to interact with as many customers as possible and let them into your public space, Title III, dealing with public accommodations is the most relevant. Tilted “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability by Public Accommodations and in Commercial Facilities,” this section of the ADA law established standards for making sure spaces open to the public are accessible for everyone, and accommodations can be made for people with disabilities.

Who Must Abide By ADA Standards:

The ADA standards for accommodations apply to what the law terms “public accommodations,” defined as privately owned space that is open to non-paying members of the public. This includes restaurants, hotels, theaters, banks, retail stores, doctors’ offices, schools, and recreation spaces.  Spaces only for employees may not have to have the same accommodations, but space in your business that is open to “all” people has to truly make reasonable accommodations so that people with disabilities will not be excluded.

Under federal law, private clubs and religious organizations are exempt.  However, the ADA law is only one part of disability law.  Many states have their own laws and standards to ensure more stringent standards of accessibility, such as California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act. For this reason, it may be important to seek out the help of professional advisors who can supervise your property and inform you of ways to deal potential disability law violations.   

ADA compliance is enforced through lawsuits. Private individuals who believe they have been discriminated against or excluded from a public accommodation can make a ADA Complaint that can cost you a great deal of money. They can either bring a court case themselves, or report the offending business to the Department of Justice, which will investigate and determine if this particular violation is a matter of serious public importance, or reflects a recurring pattern of discrimination.  Civil penalties for ADA violations will be under 55,000 for a first violation or $110,000 for any subsequent violation, and are only charged after efforts at voluntary compliance have proven unsuccessful. Compliance with the law requires only that you make “readily achievable” modifications to make your facilities and services available to everyone. That means that you can meet the standards of the law while still taking into consideration what you can afford.  With creativity around current challenges, and a plan for more long-term fixes, you can be safely ensured of maximum accessibility in your business space. This means that no potential customer is turned away because their disability makes it impossible to take part.

What Does the ADA Law Entail?:

The law providers standards around multiple issues that help people with different disabilities to be able to use all facilities open to the public. Being up to ADA code will help you avoid costly lawsuits, as well as allow your business to expand its customer base by insuring you do not exclude anyone.  At first, conforming to ADA standards may seem like a very intimidating prospect, but achieving ADA compliance may be easier than you think.  The official ADA website quotes a study commissioned by the Sears Department store. That company made 436 accommodations between 1978 and 1992. Out of those, 69% had no cost at all, 28% cost less than $1,000, and only 3% cost more than $1,000.  Furthermore, federal and state governments often give tax incentives and grants to make the compliance process easier.

In summary, compliance with ADA standards means that you work to ensure that no one is denied access to any part of your services on account of a disability or impairment, or placed in a separate section away from everyone else, unless absolutely necessary.   

1. ADA Parking:

Parking is one of the most direct ways in which the ADA law shows its influence.  If you offer any parking for customers, a certain number of spaces within the shortest possible accessible entrance should be reserved. If your business is large enough to have multiple entrances, accessible parking spaces should be dispersed to be close to each entrance.

  • With a few exceptions, a lot with 4 or fewer parking
  • If you have between 5 and 25  parking spaces, there should be at least one accessible space.
  • 26 – 50 spaces, at least 2 must be accessible.
  • 51 – 75 spaces, at least 3 must be accessible.
  • 76 – 100 spaces, at least 4 must be accessible
  • More than 100 parking spaces, at least 2 percent of total spaces must be accessible.

An accessible parking space should have at least 60 inches of space.  Each space should have 5 feet wide access aisles marked with hatch marks so people will not park in them. The surface of the space must be smooth, stable, and mostly level in all directions (a maximum slope of 2%), to ensure safe use.  You must work to ensure that the accessible spaces and routes remain open and in good condition in spite of wear and tear and weather conditions. The spaces should be kept clear of snow, ice, or fallen leaves as much as possible. Furthermore, at least one, and 1 in 8 of the total, of accessible spaces must be van accessible. A van accessible space should be 11 feet wide, with access aisles adjacent to the passengers’ side.

Each reserved, accessible parking space should be marked with a sign, at least five feet off the ground, that includes the international Symbol of Accessibility. Signs for van accessible spaces should include the additional phrase “Van Accessible.”

Each state’s Department of Motor Vehicles is responsible for assessing physical challenges that would necessitate using accessible parking, and issuing permits, consisting of distinctive license plates or placards. Local law enforcement is responsible for responding to unauthorized vehicles parking in accessible spaces.

2. ADA Ramps and Entrances:

After they park, your customers must then enter the building for your business.  Within the ADA, there are multiple provisions and standards that affect your entrances to ensure maximum accessibility. As not everyone is able to use stairs, a ramp must be provided as an alternative. If a slope is greater than 1:20, a ramp is required.  The ramp’s slope must be 1:12, with a handrail provided if the slope is greater than 5 percent. The minimum width of the ramp is 36 inches, and the ramp can be no longer than 30 feet without a landing, so people can rest without falling backwards.

For the main entrance into your place of business, there are a variety of door-types from which to choose. Accessibility can be only one of your concerns while choosing the entrance that is the most accessible pleasing, energy efficient, and clear to customers.  Dimensions for the ramp landing vary based on the type of door used.  Door openings are expected to provide a clear width of at least 32 inches, measuring from the open door to the opposite frame.  To ensure a clear motion stepping inside, the door’s threshold must be less than a half-inch off the ground. There should also be at least 18 inches of clear space between the side of the door that swings out, and any obstruction or object in the space.   Abiding by these ADA standards will enable people with disabilities full access to your commercial public space.

3. ADA Bathrooms:

According to ADA law, all washrooms that are open to the public, whether newly constructed or renovated, are expected to be accessible, with some bathroom facilities further designed for people with disabilities.  You can choose to include either separate accessible bathrooms, or create accessible stalls within the bathroom, signaled with the International Access Symbol.

Toilets must be 17 to 19 inches high, with a seat that can be easily lifted or put down. Automatic flush control is prefered, or you can put a flusher on the wide side of the stall, no more than 40 inches from the floor. The toilet paper dispenser should be within reach while sitting on the toilet, and no more than 19 inches off the ground.

There must be at least one separate stall that meets a few other specifications. A floor mounted toilet for more security, and space 59 inches deep and 60 inches wide. In this stall, the centerline of the toilet must be exactly 18 inches from the side of the toilet to the wall, and with clear space more than 32 inches to the wall.  If there are at least 6 stalls, at least one must be further outfitted with parallel grab bars on each side, and an outward swinging, self-closing door.

4.  ADA Compliant Commercial Spaces:

ADA standards require that people with disabilities be able to move around freely once Inside your store, classroom, office, place of lodging, or other public area. Provisions must be made for a clear and safe path of travel for everyone. People in wheelchairs or other mobility aids should not be restricted from any area of the store open to all people. This means you must be sensitive to their needs, reducing clutter, rearranging furniture, and making your aisles wide enough so there are no barriers to access.  Generally, the minimum width of a clear aisle must be 32 inches or more to allow a standard wheelchair to pass through.  Also related to access within your space, elevators are required in buildings larger than three stories or have more than 3,000 square feet per story.

Also related to issues of access within your facilities, you should be aware of the height of any tables, reception, or sales counter, to ensure they are not so high as to restrict anyone from seeing employees or other relevant information. Generally, there should be a 36 inches long part of the counter that should be between 24 and 34 inches high. Other parts of the counter, such as the cash register, can be higher, as long as they remain close to the accessible section.  If there is an opportunity for customer self-service, or to take information or samples from a counter, you should avoid making a customer reach deeper than 20 inches, or higher than 44 inches. If there are no stalls, at least one toilet should have grab bars on both sides, with adequate clearing space.  Each grab bar should be exactly 33 inches from the floor, and at least 54 inches along the side, and 36 inches long along the back.

Sinks should have a clear space of at least 30 by 48 inches, and the counter height should be no more than 34 inches. If there are exposed pipes underneath, make sure they are insulated and that all corners or sharp edges are dealt with to avoid injury. Faucets should be lever or push operated, or sensory controlled/automatic, running for at least 10 seconds.   

5. Visual and Hearing Impairments:

Some other disabilities you may frequently encounter are blindness, deafness, or other sensory impairments.  People with low vision or hearing are also protected from exclusion  by ADA laws, and so you must find a way to accommodate their needs for alternative means of communication. This can be through pictures, written notes, captions, or the presence of a sign language interpreter for the hard-of-hearing.  Blind and low-vision people can be accommodated through braille or tactile signs, as well as messages that are spoken as well as written. Any bathrooms, areas not accessible to the public, or other separate rooms should be noted with a sign including the use of  braille and standard pictograms.

6. How To Be ADA Compliant:

Full compliance with the ADA requires a great deal of careful attention to detail and a scrupulous concern for making sure every aspect of your business is as open to including people with disabilities as possible. It may sometimes seem like a tedious task, but can be a very important part of expanding your customer base to include people who would otherwise be excluded. ADA Compliance Pros can help you navigate these regulations and determine readily achievable ways of following this important law.


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