Friday, January 17, 2014

The All Inclusive ADA

During the day I often receive a lot of telephone calls from business owners in trouble.  They have just received a lawsuit citing their non-compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and they are in a total state of confusion as to how to proceed.  They will usually go on to explain that they have an ADA accessible parking space in front of their facility and their toilet rooms are also accessible so they have no idea as to why they have received a lawsuit for violations of the ADA.

After they explain their situation, I usually ask a few questions such as does your parking lot have a tow away sign mounted at the vehicular entry or does your toilet room have a circle or triangle on the door.   It’s at this point they are usually puzzled as to how to answer the questions.

I then go on to explain to them why these are important and they become totally bewildered.   Further, I go on to ask them questions such as does the front door exceed a push/pull force of 5 lbf and at this point they usually stop me and say they will just pay the plaintiff in an out of court settlement.

Paying a serial plaintiff in an out of court settlement sometimes works, but what business owners don’t understand is that many of the plaintiffs will return in six months or a year with even more violations of the ADA and file another lawsuit.  This is a really common practice for serial plaintiffs as building and business owners really have no idea as to how many violations their facilities actually have.

To further explain, a simple entry door has 17 separate checks that must be made to assure it meets the requirements of the ADA.  These checks include clearances around the door, size of the door, door closing speed to name just a few.   The number of issues that could be the result of an ADA lawsuit is simply mind boggling to many business owners, but it’s just a further indication as to how easy it is for business and property owners to become targets of a lawsuit.

So how can business owners protect their businesses?   The only real way to protect a business is to make sure it’s 100% accessible.   The problem is however that there is no good way to figure out exactly what needs to be done to make a business accessible.   That is why a business MUST enlist the services of an accessibility professional such as a Certified Access Specialist (CASp) in California or an Architect in other states.   A CASp or Architect is someone who can guide businesses in the right direction in their endeavor to fully meet the requirements of the ADA.

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