The U.S. Justice Department’s New A.D.A. (Americans with Disabilities Act) Guidelines went into effect March 15th. The revised guidelines are the first major revision to the guidelines originally issued in 1990. The regulations apply to the activities of state and local government and places of public accommodation, including stores, restaurants, shopping malls, libraries, museums, sporting arenas, movie theaters, doctors’ and dentists’ offices, hotels, jails and prisons, polling places, and emergency preparedness shelters.
Although the new guidelines are “in effect.” they are not mandatory until March 15, 2012. So, you might be under the impression that you have some time before you need to worry about this. WRONG.
These Guidelines effectively mirror ICC/ANSI 117.1-03, American National Standard’s “Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities.” The ICC/ANSI standard is already referenced and mandatory per the 2009 version of the North Carolina Building Code.
In addition to the new Guidelines, the Justice Department is also releasing a new document, “ADA Update: A Primer for Small Business,” which is intended to help small businesses understand the new and updated accessibility requirements. What is a small business required to do? The document is available on the DOJ’s ADA website, www.ada.gov .
According to the document:
“The ADA requires that small businesses remove architectural barriers in existing facilities when it is “readily achievable” to do so. Readily achievable means “easily accomplishable without much difficulty or expense.” This requirement is based on the size and resources of a business. So, businesses with more resources are expected to remove more barriers than businesses with fewer resources.”
What does that mean? If you have barriers to access, you must remove them. And, the more money a business has, the greater the expectation to remove those barriers.
The ADA regulations recommend the following priorities for barrier removal:
- Providing access to your business from public sidewalks, parking areas, and public transportation;
- Providing access to the goods and services your business offers;
- Providing access to public restrooms; and
- Removing barriers to other amenities offered to the public, such as drinking fountains.
Don’t wait until the mandatory effective date to start removing barriers. It is already federal and state law for businesses to remove barriers to accessibility, and waiting merely increases your exposure to civil lawsuits. Yes, you can be sued for denying access. Have your facility assessed for architectural barrier removal today!