What’s the Difference Between ADA Compliant and ADA Certified?

  • 21.09.2020

ADA compliance is complex and difficult. Having been in business for over ten years, we try our best to answer any questions our clients have. Everybody must follow the Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines that have been established by the Department of Justice. Any business or commercial property that is open to the public, must make reasonable accommodation of their public accommodations.

One of the questions we get asked ask the most is what is the difference between a property being ADA Compliant and Certified. As with everything that has to do with compliance with ADA, the answer is complicated. Anytime you are dealing with the Americans with Disabilities Act, especially Title III and the specific rulings of the Department of Justice, there are gray areas that must be considered, reviewed and decided upon how to best proceed! And at least once a week, as we review ADA requirements with our clients, they ask us what is the specific difference between a property being A D A Certified and ADA compliant. They are indeed different things and require differing accessibility requirements for people with disabilities to have safe accommodations as cited in Title III by the Department of Justice to determined ADA certification.

It is the obligation of a property or business owner to make every reasonable accommodation to their property to get it ADA compliant. This ADA training certification program is a crucial responsibility to running a business or owning a commercial property. While an ADA expert can be retained to conduct an access inspection and help you with this ADA program, it takes focus, commitment and investment to carry the process through to the end. However, there are big risks to not committing to an ADA training certification program.

For years, ADA lawsuits were coined “drive-by lawsuits” as enough info could be gleaned from driving past without ever getting out of the car. However, serial litigants are leaving the car in the garage and simply hopping on the computer. With Google Earth having visually captured all of California (and the entire globe for that matter!) we are now seeing lawsuits being filed by use of this new technology. You can now zoom in close enough to a property to survey the exterior and determine if it appears compliant. In many cases, our clients prove that the plaintiff never set foot on their property, but with the non-compliant issues verified, the lawsuits stand, and thousands of dollars are lost.

Let’s start by first defining what ADA Compliance and ADA Certification actually mean:

ADA Compliance: Your property is compliant with all accessibility requirements for Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This means you have gone through a detailed process of a CASp certification program, have reviewed your accessibility requirements of your public accommodations as designated by your ADA coordinator, implemented the changes of your ADA requirements to bring the property up to compliance and had your ADA coordinator re-inspect your property to ensure your requirements have been met. Once your ADA requirements have been verified to be fully compliant, a CASp will issue a letter stating that your property meets “All Applicable Standards.” This is the ultimate protections for ADA requirements and is actually much more impactful than getting your property certified. One might say this is the gold standard for ADA accessibility and how to best protect yourself from an ADA lawsuit.

ADA Certification: By hiring a an ADA expert to conduct an ADA inspection to verify if your ADA requirements are up to code, you will get a certification stating that you have had your property inspected. This ADA certification program is a crucial element to ensuring you are up to the required accessibility requirements, but this certification program, is not the be-all-end-all of ADA compliance. In fact, this ADA certification program, as a stand-alone is incomplete and leaves you exposed for a possible ADA lawsuit.

Don’t Forget Your Website!:

Just as a commercial property can be sued for not being accessible, so can a commercial website. A website is legally viewed as a public accommodation and under Title III, any public accommodation must be fully compliant. Serial litigants are now targeting websites for ADA lawsuits, and from Dominos Pizza, to the mom and pop by-the-slice around the corner, every commercial website is at risk of getting hit. The threat is real and only getting worse. You must have your web site development team work with your existing website to ensure it is ADA compliant.

Fortunately, much of the process of defending such website lawsuits is similar to defending a commercial property lawsuit. The serial litigants are almost uniformly identical – looking aggressively toward a quick settlement, and in a similar way that an access report (CASp Report) plays a crucial role in resolving the lawsuit, so does getting a live audit conducted on the website so that a web developer can ensure it is accessible for all. Once a website is verified to be compliant, the training certification program, by an expert can verify your website to be compliant.

Protect Yourself:

In sports they often say the best defense is a good offense, and for business and property owners the same philosophy holds true when dealing with accessibility. The best way to protect yourself from a lawsuit is to be proactive. We can help. From physical inspections of your property, to architectural design to solve complex non-compliant issues, to live website audits to get your site compliant, we offer proactive ADA solutions. Let us support you in making this a lawsuit-free year.

A great way to ensure your digital property is accessible is getting a VPAT. What are VPAT forms, you may ask? It is the process of documenting the accessibility of your digital property in an official template called a VPAT.