If you are a business owner, we hope you have at least heard of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This civil rights legislation was passed in 1990 to protect the rights and defend against the discrimination of people in the United States who suffer from mental or physical disability. The act was most recently amended in 2009.
The ADA lays out rules and regulations requiring businesses to make reasonable accommodations for employees and customers with disabilities, which can include a wide-range of repairs and improvements to aid in accessibility or comfort. Like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 before it, the ADA also protects against discriminatory practices based on disabilities, such as refusing to hire someone in a wheelchair or who suffers from HIV.
Due to the broad and sometimes subjective nature of necessary improvements for ADA compliance, many employers and businesses struggle to ensure their company is in conformity with the law.
Below we’ve outlined four common ways that businesses tend to violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, so you can work to avoid the oftentimes-serious costs of such violations.
1) Entrance Accessibility
One of the most common ways that businesses find themselves in noncompliance of the ADA is by not providing a handicap accessible entrance to their business when it is possible and reasonable to do so. There are many regulations about ramps, door width, etc. that must be followed. Also, a person with a disability should have some way to contact those inside the place of business from the outside if needed.
Many businesses lack a van accessible parking space that is clearly marked for handicapped use only. This is a simple and cheap way to help remain ADA compliant. Slightly less simple, but still important, is building a curb cut that is up to code so that someone with a disability can gain access to the walkway in front of your business from the parking lot without having to go directly over a curb.
3) Service Animals
People with disabilities ranging from blindness to PTSD often utilize service animals. Even if pets are not allowed in your business, you are required by the ADA to allow service animals into your place of business. What’s more, you are not allowed to try to force the owner of the service animal to provide papers to prove the animal is an official service dog. If you try to prevent a service animal from entering or force the owner to prove it is a service animal, you may find yourself in noncompliance with the ADA.
4) Not Hiring/Firing Due to Disability
A person’s disability cannot be a factor in any way in your decision to hire or fire them. There are some common sense exceptions to this, such as when the person’s disability makes it entirely impossible to do the job at hand, but in general it is absolutely essential that you do not make any employment decisions with any regard for disabilities.
For the most part, the Americans with Disabilities Act is not in place to force business owners to spend lots of money or to punish them, but merely to protect those with disabilities from unfair treatment. The law generally accounts for how reasonable and commonsensical it would be for business owners to comply with the ADA, so it’s important that you consult with an attorney like Brett Trembly who is experienced and knowledgeable about what it takes for your to protect your business from ADA lawsuits.