Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Accessibility In Parking Lots

One of the quickest ways to get a lawsuit for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is to have a parking lot that does not comply with the ADA.   Parking lots must meet the requirements ONE HUNDRED PERCENT.  The reason for this is simple..........although the law requires a plaintiff to have personally encountered the violation of the ADA, many serial plaintiffs simply drive by and record the businesses address in order to file a lawsuit.   This is why the ADA lawsuits are sometimes referred to as "drive by" lawsuits.  While there are many parking lot issues that can get a businesses into trouble, one of the easiest ways is to not maintain any existing accessible parking that already exist in the parking lot.  Businesses have an on-going obligation to maintain their accessible parking and the accessible route to the main entry of the building.   As you can see from the photograph above, there is just about nothing that is accessible about this parking stall.  The only way to determine this is an accessible stall is the faded emblem of a wheel chair on the pavement at the rear of the stall.   To be fair, there is also some non-conforming signage on a pole in front of the stall.  In addition to the many technical violations this stall has, it's also is too far from the front door.   The ADA requires that accessible stalls be as close as possible to the main entry door of the building.

Another quick way to get into trouble is to use your accessible parking for something else besides accessible parking as can be seen in this photograph to the left.   Although they do have an accessible stall that does not the requirements of the ADA, the business owner has decided to make matters worse by using half of the parking stall for storage of their merchandise.   This business is located on a major street with the parking lot being very visible from the street.   As a result, the chances of this business receiving an ADA lawsuit are very high.  To minimize their exposure, this business should at a minimum remove the merchandise from the stall and repaint the accessible stall to meet the technical requirements of the ADA.   In addition, this stall needs the proper signage installed

Monday, November 25, 2013

Why Create A Blog About Accessibility?

As an Architect, I know and understand the need for accessibility in buildings.   Every project that I have done in my career has met the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), however, as I go about my daily life I always seem to find buildings, some new and some old that do not conform in any way to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).   For years I have always wondered…………how did this building get away without providing the most basis requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) since businesses and properties are not granted “grandfather” status? 

Well, after years of puzzlement, I have recently found that answer………THEY DON’T GET AWAY WITH IT.   I found out to my surprise that as many as 98% of businesses and properties do not conform 100% to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and that many of these businesses and properties are now receiving lawsuits (either the tenant or the building owner may receive the lawsuit) for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by serial plaintiff’s.   This is especially true in California where laws are much more liberal than in other parts of the United States.  It’s also not uncommon for businesses and properties who receive a lawsuit to settle out of court with the plaintiff for several thousand dollars rather than incur the expense and time of going to court.  This practice has become an epidemic and has already cost business and building owners thousands and thousands of dollars.

It’s for this reason that in addition to my work as an Architect, I have recently become a Certified Access Specialist (CASp) and am not considered an expert in accessibility by the State of California.  As a California Certified Access Specialist (CASp) I can work with business and property owners to minimize, if not eliminate the lawsuits by surveying their businesses and properties to determine their level of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and work with them to develop an implementation schedule for corrections that will be included in a CASp Report.   Once a CASp Report is completed, businesses and properties will have new legal rights including a 90 days stay of any future lawsuits and an Early Evaluation Conference (EEC) with the judge before the lawsuit proceeds.

Since I have became a Certified Access Specialist (CASp) my goal has been to get to business and property owners BEFORE the serial plaintiffs and help them meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).   It has been my belief that many business and property owners have no understanding as to the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and more importantly, they don’t understand why they are necessary.   Few business and property owners understand that moving a mirror one inch may result in a lawsuit.   Many just believe it’s just more needless requirements placed on them by the government, however, once they understand the reasons behind the requirements, they are often more accommodating.   They also understand that due to recent wars and the aging baby boomers, the need for accessibility is even more important as those with disabilities have money to spend and look for accessible places to spend their money. 

As an aid to business and property owners, I have decided to develop this blog which will have once simple goal……….help explain the often complex concepts of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).   Hopefully businesses and properties will find the information contained in this blog to be helpful in their endeavor to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).