Do all of your buildings comply with ADA requirements? You may think that people with disabilities can navigate your facility with ease, but total compliance with the Americans with Disability Act is surprisingly rare. You need to understand how to assess, categorize and prioritize your facilities, allowing you to formulate a timely, scalable ADA Transition Plan that YOU have control over. F&D International recommends that every business, corporation and public entity begin with an accessibility survey report. The accessibility survey report draws attention to deficiencies or items that are not within compliant regulations. Items or elements that do not meet minimum specifications for requirements of compliance are recorded, and noted into a report. This is often referred to as a barrier removal or transition plan.
How long does the inspection process take?
The size and type of facility, along with the number of elements contained, determines the inspection time. Most inspections can be performed in a few hours, however large facility or site inspections of multiple buildings can take longer.
Detailed report of non-compliant findings
The end results of our inspection is a detailed report of the findings of non-compliance and a proposed action required to meet compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, or state regulations, or related access standards.
Compliance is financial protection
Just like driving a car without insurance, it only takes getting caught once to realize it is much less expensive to comply on your own now than to pay fines and penalties on top of making the necessary changes. Give your business the ability to plan for changes and associated costs to keep necessary expenditures under control.
You maintain control of the compliance process
Once you’ve completed a proper evaluation and have a sensible and defendable ADA modification plan on file, you have given yourself control of the compliance process (and control of the costs). But without a legitimate plan, a lawsuit or formal complaint could turn control of compliance (and your budget) to the courts or an enforcing agency. By having adjustments done now, you avoid the possibility of having someone else dictate how and where your budget is spent.
As of the 2010 census, 18% of our population is disabled, and that number is growing. If your business isn’t compliant, you’re missing out on a potential sales growth of 18% – and you’re also holding your breath and hoping that nobody sues you.
There are five main areas that account for some of the most common violations. Scope them out to make sure you’re not setting yourself up for a lawsuit.
1) Entrances and Routes
Can someone using a wheelchair or scooter get into your building? If your entrances are only accessible by stairs, you have a problem on your hands that a makeshift plywood ramp won’t solve.
This applies even if your building was built before the ADA was established. Buildings are required to keep up with evolving ADA standards wherever reasonably possible.
2) Parking Areas
Accessible parking spaces seem uncomplicated, but they frequently trip up building owners who don’t realize that there’s more to parking stalls than just painting the International Symbol of Access on the ground. Access aisles where wheelchair users can enter and exit vehicles are particularly prone to issues. The aisle needs to be connected to an access route that leads directly to the entrance of the building. Curb ramp slope issues are another major problem, they may have been designed correctly but not constructed correctly.
Slope issues can plague the rest of the parking lot also; even if they are the correct dimensions, many exceed the maximum slope of 1:48. This may be because the grading wasn’t done correctly or because the asphalt is not level
Restrooms are tough to get right due to the sheer number of requirements for those spaces. There are many different things you have to get right, what seems like a simple variation of height or distance can be hard to fix. In addition to the cost of fixing it – which is what will happen in some kind of settlement – there will also be financial penalties and the cost of attorney fees and experts. It gets very expensive when you get a complaint, so it’s much better to take a proactive approach and do an ADA survey. Restroom-related violations typically fall into one of these categories:
Toilet stalls: The placement and location of dispensers, grab bars and other toilet accessories – not to mention the toilet itself – frequently causes trouble for building owners. If not placed correctly this may cause the grab bars to be in the wrong place as well.
Sinks: Many sinks are not compliant, and this is a big one. Check the sinks in your restroom and breakroom – they’re required to be a maximum of 34 inches high. The height can be thrown off by simple design choices like the type of fixtures chosen.
Room size: Restrooms need at least 60 inches of uninterrupted space for wheelchair users to maneuver around. A restroom that doesn’t comply with this basic requirement can’t be fixed easily or inexpensively, causing its owner untold headaches if the non-compliance leads to a lawsuit.
4) Accidental Barriers
Some barriers to access result from deferred maintenance rather than being designed into the building. For instance, a perfectly designed accessible parking stall becomes non-compliant when the striping fades too much to be read or when the blue sign at the head of the parking space is vandalized or stolen. Door pressure and speed are both regulated by the ADA so that doors are easy enough to maneuver and don’t open or close too fast, but over time they may need some maintenance to bring them back into compliance, adds Employee training can also play a role, so periodically review all spaces to make sure people aren’t accidentally creating barriers.
In restaurants, one common problem is that the lower section of service counters, which is intended to let someone in a wheelchair wheel up to it and sign a credit card slip, will be non-compliant because of the way staff is using it. People will put a cash register or a stack of menus in that area. That’s just a lack of knowledge and training.
5) Misunderstanding the Law
Building owners frequently confuse ADA mandates with building codes, but code compliance improvements are only required if you’re substantially altering a space or building a new one, but ADA compliance is mandatory even if your building was constructed before the requirements became law.
If you have an older building, you should be budgeting dollars every year to remove barriers so that your facility becomes accessible. The law is approximately 28 years old now – if you had a complaint and an attorney asked what you’ve done over the last 28 years to make your facility more accessible, and your answer is nothing, and that puts you in a weak position. This requirement applies to all spaces open to the public, even for spaces that only occasionally have outside visitors.
People often think the ADA is about building codes, but it’s actually about civil rights, and civil rights apply to everybody. There are only two groups that are exempt, religious organizations and exclusive clubs that own their own buildings. However, if a church or club rents its building out for a wedding or benefit event where non-members will be attending, the ADA applies to them fully, even if it’s a one-time event.
Bringing in an ADA Accessibility consultant like F&D International to conduct a survey of your buildings and grounds will help you get on top of your accessibility problems and help you find things that may make you vulnerable for a lawsuit. This survey could also help if a lawsuit does come up; at least you have already started taking the steps towards compliance. Many items are not expensive to do, like replacing old knob-style door hardware are restriping your parking lot.