All of us believe and work toward a society where individuals with disabilities are assured the opportunity to participate and grow within our communities. This participation is vital to our society, and also to the health of our economy. The purpose of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is to make sure that individuals with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including any public or private area that is accessible and open to the general public. These areas can also be regarded as places of public accommodations. Places of public accommodations includes facilities such as hotels, gas stations, convenience stores, restaurants, shopping centers, laundromats, dry cleaners, and more. Today, this diverse group of consumers makes up a significant portion of America’s growing market for businesses which means proper steps must be made to avoid liability for failure to comply with the ADA.
Importance of ADA Compliance
The ADA is a complaint-driven law. Any individual who feels equal access to a public area is not being provided to disabled persons can file a lawsuit against that facility. The ADA provides that attorney’s fees are awarded to the person who files the lawsuit and can show any violation of the ADA. Thus, a business owner not only has to pay to correct the ADA violation, but also has to pay the other side’s attorney’s fees in addition to his or her own attorney’s fees. Further, in the state of Georgia, any person or entity who does not comply with ADA requirements could be subject to criminal penalties. Thus, it is vital for business owners and tenants to always remain proactive to ensure ADA compliance among its staff and facilities in order to avoid this costly consequence.
Equal access and enjoyment must be offered to customers with disabilities. Equal access means that all forms of entry, exit, and overall enjoyment must be equally accessible to all, disabled person or not. This means, businesses must ensure that accommodations such as parking spaces, access ramps, doorways, aisles, register counters, restrooms, curb ramps, and even light switches are in compliance with ADA’s width and height requirements. For example, many business owners are aware of the standard accessible parking requirements set forth by the ADA. Today, however, the ADA requires that 1 in every 8 accessible spaces must be served by an access aisle that is at least 96 inches wide and it must be designated via signage as “van accessible”. This means these accessible spaces must be 8 feet wide in order to accommodate a wheelchair lift on the side of a van.
Quick Tips for Serving Customers with Disabilities
To better provide equal access, businesses should avoid barriers that are created on a day to day basis. As a business owner, your main goal should always be to ensure a clear path of travel for customers using mobility devices or service animals. For example, always stock goods or supplies away from areas that are accessible to the public like restrooms or seating areas and avoid blocking aisle entrances with product displays.
It is vital for business owners to understand the financial effects of the ADA permitting anyone to file a lawsuit for ADA violations as the costs incurred far exceed merely paying your attorney’s fees. Being proactive is the best solution to guarantying compliance with the ADA and avoiding the costly financial burdens that result from extensive litigation and/or negotiation settlements. Therefore, as a business owner, always evaluate access at your facility, address and fix any barriers you think exist, train your staff on the ADA’s requirements, and always comply with the ADA when planning an alteration or construction of a new facility.
Please contact KPPB LAW for additional information, concerns, or questions in regards to the ADA Compliance Standards. (https://www.kppblaw.com/contact-us/).