Making your business accessible to the disabled not only helps your customers, it’s federal and state law. The Federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) paired with the State’s ADA laws ensure equal access to those with disabilities or impairments.
Both Federal and State law prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a Federal civil rights law designed to ensure equal access, full inclusion and participation for people with disabilities or impairments.
In addition, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has its own disability rights laws, codes, and regulations. Under both Federal and State law, people with disabilities are entitled to full and equal access to places of public accommodation, transportation carriers, lodging places, recreation and amusement facilities, and other business establishments where the general public is invited. Together, these laws protect Americans’ civil rights, but while people often refer to both Federal and State laws as “the ADA laws,” there are important differences.
The Federal ADA regulations require that all new construction for public accommodations comply with the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act Standards. In addition, the ADA says that a public accommodation has a continuing obligation to remove architectural barriers (barrier removal) to make sure your business is accessible, even when your business is not otherwise contemplating construction. This includes existing barriers at entrances, aisles, bathrooms, and service counters that may have predated the ADA and your ownership of the business.
Evaluating Your Location for Compliance
You can hire a professional Certified Access Specialist (CASp) to evaluate your location. The CASp inspects your location and provides a report. The report either certifies that you have complied with state and federal disability access laws, or explains the steps necessary to achieve full compliance.
As part of this inspection you can work with your CASp inspector to develop a timeline for removal of all readily achievable barriers to access. If you are sued in a state court for not being accessible, having a CASp inspection report makes you eligible to request a 90-day stay of the lawsuit and an Early Evaluation Conference. You may also qualify for a 90-day stay if you have a final job card from a CASp-certified building inspector, or are a small business with 25 or fewer employees and gross receipts of less than $3.5 Million.
Consult with an attorney to determine the best strategy to protect you and your business in the event of an ADA lawsuit. Although working with an attorney can be expensive, some low-cost legal services are available to small businesses. ADA lawsuits commonly cost small businesses tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and settlements – invest in your business by investing in access.