A lot of my clients inquire as why is it a big deal if my ramp is a little too steep or a door is a little too narrow. Most believe that if they are somewhat in compliance with the ADA, they are O.K. and should not be subject to lawsuits. Well nothing could be farther from the truth.
Nothing in the ADA is arbitrary. The ADA was not developed in a vacuum; instead it was developed over years of working with government agencies, disability rights groups and many others to get a document that really does provide assistance to the disabled community. The requirements of the ADA are based on the actual real life experiences of the disabled community and on what is needed to allow persons with a disability to function normally in society.
Take for example, a ramp that is a little too steep. Most do not understand how difficult it is for a disabled person to wheel up the slope of a ramp. It requires a lot of upper body strength that many disabled people do not have and for every degree of extra slope, it becomes increasingly more difficult for a disabled person to get to the top of a ramp. This is also the reason the ADA specifies the need for a landing on the ramp which gives the disabled person the opportunity to stop on a level surface and take a mini break before proceeding to the top of the ramp.
In regards to the door, wheel chairs are built to a certain dimension and therefore a door opening must be large enough to allow the wheel chair to pass with a little extra clearance on each side. Failure to provide an opening large enough does not allow a disabled person to enter a facility and could subject the owner or tenant to an ADA lawsuit.
As you can see from the two examples above, the ADA is not arbitrary……………every requirement or dimension has a basis of fact for the disabled community. Despite this, many of my clients still continue to believe that if they get close to meeting the requirements of the ADA, they will be free from ADA lawsuits, but this is simply not true. If you do not meet the requirements 100%, then you are subjecting yourself to a future ADA lawsuit. This is also the reason the property owners and tenants must enlist the services of professionals who KNOW the ADA. I have seen so many instances where owners have hired contractors to do the work only to find out the contractor did the work incorrectly when they get another lawsuit. Do not subject yourself to unnecessary lawsuits by not enlist the services of an ADA Professional ( CASp in California ) to advise you on issues related to the ADA.