The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990 and encompasses a set of standards to ensure equality for disabled persons in terms of employment and accessibility to public places. It is the responsibility of a business owner to ensure that their establishment complies with all accessibility standards. These standards, which were revised in 2010, pertain to a variety of architectural aspects including the number and placement of handicap parking spaces, the location and incline of ramps and presence of rails for stairs, the size of open circulation areas, and the visibility and placement of signs. As of March 15, 2012, all new structures or structures undergoing alterations must be made compliant with the 2010 accessibility standards. Alterations include relatively minor renovations such as replacing the flooring or adding fixed shelves so it is important for business owners to identify any deviations from the 2010 standards before beginning a construction process.
ADA alterations are important to business owners for the following reasons:
1. Failure to comply can result in a federal lawsuit.
Upon failure to comply, the Department of Justice must first attempt to negotiate with business owners to ensure compliance. If this is unsuccessful, the Department of Justice can file lawsuits to obtain civil penalties up to $55,000 for a first violation and $110,000 for all additional violations.
2. Failure to comply can result in a civil lawsuit.
An individual may litigate if they identify noncompliance in any establishment. This can result in a business having to pay not only to renovate the building but also to pay their attorney fees and the plaintiff’s attorney fees. Should a disabled individual actually become injured while in the place of business due to a failure to comply with ADA standards, the individual may also be entitled to compensation for any medical bills at the expense of the business.
3.Compliance allows more customers to patronize your business.
Approximately 19% of Americans have a disability and this percentage is expected to increase as the baby boomer generation ages. It is also a demographic with enormous spending power. According to the ADA, the demographic of disabled individuals has $175 billion in discretionary spending. This spending power is four times greater than that of the highly desirable “tween” market.
Existing structures that comply with the 1990 standards do not have to complete alterations to meet the 2010 standards. However, it is unwise to assume your building is compliant with the 1990 standards simply because it is an older structure. It is also in your benefit to perform alterations in order to comply with the 2010 standard as a safeguard against injury lawsuits and to increase the size of your potential market.
Alterations to become compliant often entail inexpensive and quickly accomplished tasks such as installing a handrail or lowering a wall-mounted telephone. Furthermore, businesses completing alterations to become compliant are eligible for a tax deduction under Internal Revenue Code – Section 190 and small businesses may be eligible for The Disabled Access Credit. No matter what size the task, Carolina Services Inc. is prepared to help you meet ADA guidelines to protect and enhance your business. Contact us today!