Unsure about whether or not your business must comply with ADA requirements? This article will guide you to tell (1) whether your business should comply with the ADA, (2) what are the requirements and standards to become ADA compliant and (3) if your facility encourages accessibility for all.
What is the ADA?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that protects individuals with disabilities, provides equal opportunity and prohibits discrimination across different aspects of public life – employment, housing, public accommodations, education, public transportation, communication, recreation, institutionalization, health services, voting, and access to public services. The ADA primarily covers three areas:
- Title I of the ADA, on employment and job-related concerns
- Title II of the ADA, on state and local government programs and services
- Title III of the ADA, on places of public accommodation and commercial facilities
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prioritizes accessibility among people with disabilities through establishing requirements for involved employers and owners in employment, state and local governments’ programs, public accommodations and commercial facilities. These requirements allow people with disabilities equal opportunities in these areas, supporting their rights.
Definition of Disability
According to the ADA, a “disability” with respect to an individual, is defined as:
- A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual;
- A record of such an impairment; or
- Being regarded as having such an impairment
Examples of Disabilities Covered by the ADA
Some examples of disabilities covered by the ADA are the following:
- AIDS, HIV
- Blindness and other conditions of visual impairment
- Cerebral palsy
- Heart disease
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Speech and hearing impairments
Other conditions such as depression, anxiety, and stress may be considered as a “disability” or is covered by the ADA if it resulted from a documented mental of physiological disorder, is from personal life or job pressures, or limits one’s ability to perform at least one or more major life events, such as walking, standing, communicating, etc.
Since its original publication in 1991, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has then published the final list of regulations of the ADA, also including an update document on ADA Standards for Accessible Design. Compliance to the 2010 ADA standards were applied in the year 2012.
ADA compliance will be primarily discussed under the scope of Titles I and III, of which small businesses and other forms of public accommodations are concerned with.
ADA Title I
This title covers on employment and job related concerns. According to the ADA, eligible businesses and employers must provide employees with equal opportunities when it comes to employment. This includes benefits, privileges, necessary technical assistance* (depends on whether it produces undue hardship for the company’s operations) among others.
Title I Compliance
The ADA defines an “employer” as the following:
- “A person engaged in an industry affecting commerce who has 15 or more employees for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year, and any agent of such person, except that, for two years following the effective date of this subchapter, an employer means a person engaged in an industry affecting commerce who has 25 or more employees for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding year, and any agent of such person.”
According to this, if your business has only 14 full-time employees, or has been in business for less than 20 weeks a year, then you do not have to comply with Title I of the ADA.
Employers must make sure to comply with the ADA regulations on employment, which includes providing reasonable accommodation to qualified individuals (employees or job applicants) as long as it does not ensue undue hardship on the company’s operations.
Exceptions to Title I Compliance
The term “employer” does not include the United States (as a whole, since it is a corporation wholly owned by the government of the United States), an Indian tribe, or a bona fide private membership club that is exempt from taxation under Section 501 (C) of title 26.
ADA Title II
Title II is concerned with the construction of state and local government facilities for the use of public entities. This portion of the ADA deals with the nondiscrimination of people on the sole basis of disability. Title II is an extension of Rehabilitation Act of 1973 regarding prohibiting discrimination and promoting accessibility.
You may access more information on title II through the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division’s website.
Exceptions to Title II
One exception under Title II of the ADA concerns newly constructed or altered facilities. If these were constructed or altered on or before March 15, 2012, and that do not comply with the 1991 Standards, these will be made accessible in accordance with either the 1991 Standards or the 2010 Standards.
ADA Title III
Title III regulations involve private and public entities considered as “public accommodations” and “commercial facilities”. Businesses are required to provide accessible spaces and remove barriers in existing facilities that do not make this possible. The ADA applies to parking spaces, requiring a minimum number of accessible parking spaces/van-accessible parking spaces with access aisles, the removal of architectural barriers that block the shortest route of entrance towards any establishment that provides goods and services. To make parking spaces of ADA compliance and the facilities themselves as accessible spaces, businesses are required to do new construction complying to such guidelines and regulation, as long as it is readily achievable. The term “readily achievable” according to the ADA means said changes are easy to accomplish and are able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense of the facility.
ADA Title III Compliance
Businesses must comply with the ADA by establishing policies and procedures that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Businesses need to make sure to provide goods and services that aid with accessibility (i.e. any type of auxiliary aid or service that promotes effective communication), and remove architectural barriers that may not be accessible to a person with a disability. Existing facilities and places of public accommodation must follow the requirements, standards, regulations, and be of ADA compliance to ensure accessibility for all.
Businesses considered as “public accommodations” must be of compliance with the ADA. Some examples of which are the following:
- Inns, hotels, motels
- Restaurants, bars
- Motion picture houses, theaters, concert halls
- Bakeries, grocery stores, clothing stores, hardware stores
- Banks, beauty shops, travel services
- Museums, libraries
- Gymnasiums, health spas
An extensive list of places of public accommodations can be found in the ADA website.
Businesses are required to comply by the regulations and standards for parking spaces (as previously mentioned) and must include the international symbol for accessibility at each accessible entrance of a facility.
Exceptions to Title III Compliance
Essentially, any business that regularly serves the public is considered a public accommodation, but private clubs or religious organizations are considered exempt.
Regarding service animals, a public accommodation may ask an individual with a disability to remove a service animal from the premises if the animal is out of control and the animal´s handler does not take effective action to control it; or if the animal is not housebroken.
Penalties for Non-Compliance
The ADA provides for civil penalties of up to $50,000 for a first violation, and up to $100,000 for subsequent violations. For more information, kindly seek legal advice.
Business owners have a responsibility to learn about laws, especially the Americans with Disabilities Act and conduct the necessary adjustments to make their establishments spaces of accessibility. Operations inside (such as employment, job hiring, and other job functions) and outside (presence of accessible parking areas, van accessible parking areas, access aisles, among others) should be comply under ADA standards (if said establishment is covered by the ADA) to prohibit discrimination among people with disabilities.
Make your business an accessible space for all today and learn more about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) through the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Divisions’ website at https://www.ada.gov/index.html You may access the full text of the ADA, ADA standards for Accessible Design and other related documents of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in their website.