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The Department of Justice has revised its regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This rule takes effect on March 15, 2011, clarifies issues that have arisen over the past 20 years, and contains new requirements, including the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design (2010 Standards). This document provides guidance to assist small business owners in understanding how this new regulation applies to them.
More than 50 million Americans – 18% of our population – have disabilities, and each is a potential customer. People with disabilities are living more independently and participating more actively in their communities. They and their families want to patronize businesses that welcome customers with disabilities. In addition, approximately 71.5 million baby boomers will be over age 65 by the year 2030 and will be demanding products, services, and environments that meet their age-related physical needs. Studies show that once people with disabilities find a business where they can shop or get services in an accessible manner, they become repeat customers.
People with disabilities have too often been excluded from everyday activities: shopping at a corner store, going to a neighborhood restaurant or movie with family and friends, or using the swimming pool at a hotel on the family vacation. The ADA is a Federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and opens doors for full participation in all aspects of everyday life. This publication provides general guidance to help business owners understand how to comply with the Department’s revised ADA regulations and the 2010 Standards, its design standards for accessible buildings. The ADA applies to both the built environment and to policies and procedures that affect how a business provides goods and services to its customers. Using this guidance, a small business owner or manager can ensure that it will not unintentionally exclude people with disabilities and will know when it needs to remove barriers in its existing facilities. If you are planning to build a new facility or alter an existing one, please see New Construction and Alterations for specific guidance on these types of projects. Businesses should consult the revised ADA regulations (www.ada.gov/regs2010 /ADAregs2010.htm) and the 2010 Standards (www.ada.gov/2010ADAstandards_index.htm) for more comprehensive information about specific requirements.
Who is Covered by the ADA?
Businesses that provide goods or services to the public are called “public accommodations” in the ADA. The ADA establishes requirements for 12 categories of public accommodations, which include stores, restaurants, bars, service establishments, theaters, hotels, recreational facilities, private museums and schools, doctors’ and dentists’ offices, shopping malls, and other businesses. Nearly all types of businesses that serve the public are included in the 12 categories, regardless of the size of the business or the age of their buildings. Businesses covered by the ADA are required to modify their business policies and procedures when necessary to serve customers with disabilities and take steps to communicate effectively with customers with disabilities. The ADA also requires businesses to remove architectural barriers in existing buildings and make sure that newly built or altered facilities are constructed to be accessible to individuals with disabilities. “Grandfather provisions” often found in local building codes do not exempt businesses from their obligations under the ADA.
Commercial facilities, such as office buildings, factories, warehouses, or other facilities that do not provide goods or services directly to the public are only subject to the ADA’s requirements for new construction and alterations.
Businesses need to know two important deadlines for compliance. Starting March 15, 2011, businesses must comply with the ADA’s general nondiscrimination requirements, including provisions related to policies and procedures and effective communication. The deadline for complying with the 2010 Standards, which detail the technical rules for building accessibility, is March 15, 2012. This delay in implementation was provided to allow businesses sufficient time to plan for implementing the new requirements for facilities. In addition, hotels, motels, and inns have until March 15, 2012, to update their reservation policies and systems to make them fully accessible to people with disabilities.
|March 15, 2011||General Non-Discrimination Requirements|
|March 15, 2012||Hotel Reservation Policies|
|March 15, 2012||2010 Standards|
For additional details, see, ADA 2010 Revised Requirements: Effective Date/ Compliance Date at www.ada.gov/ revised_effective_dates-2010.htm.
Barrier Removal Before March 15, 2012
Businesses removing barriers before March 15, 2012, have the choice of using either the 1991 Standards or the 2010 Standards. You must use only one standard for removing barriers in an entire facility. For example, you cannot choose the 1991 Standards for accessible routes and the 2010 Standards for restrooms. (See, ADA 2010 Revised Requirements: Effective Date / Compliance Date at www.ada.gov/ revisedeffectivedates-2010.htm). Remember that if an element complies with the 1991 Standards, a business is not required to make any changes to that element until such time as the business decides to alter that element.
| Compliance Dates and Applicable Standards for
Readily Achievable Barrier Removal, New Construction, and Alterations
|Compliance Date||Applicable Standard|
|Until March 15, 2012||1991 Standards or 2010 Standards|
|On or after March 15, 2012||2010 Standards|
Priorities for Barrier Removal
Understanding how customers arrive at and move through your business will go a long way in identifying existing barriers and setting priorities for their removal. Do people arrive on foot, by car, or by public transportation? Do you provide parking? How do customers enter and move about your business? 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.
Businesses should not wait until March 15, 2012 to identify existing barriers, but should begin now to evaluate their facilities and develop priorities for removing barriers. Businesses are also encouraged to consult with people with disabilities in their communities to identify barriers and establish priorities for removing them. A thorough evaluation and barrier removal plan, developed in consultation with the disability community, can save time and resources.
In some instances, especially in older buildings, it may not be readily achievable to remove some architectural barriers. For example, a restaurant with several steps leading to its entrance may determine that it cannot afford to install a ramp or a lift. In this situation, the restaurant must provide its services in another way if that is readily achievable, such as providing takeout service. Businesses should train staff on these alternatives and publicize them so customers with disabilities will know of their availability and how to access them.