Meeting ADA Rules Key for a Business
July 17, 2011
Business Tips Article
ASU-SBDC Rural Business Manager
SAN ANGELO, Texas — By the year 2030, I will be one of 71.5 million baby boomers over the age of 65.
Will I regularly use a cane, a walker or a wheelchair? I cannot answer that question. However, I do know that I will not want to curtail my activities. Therefore I will actively seek stores, restaurants and service providers who provide ease of physical accessibility to their places of business.
I am the customer and I can choose where I spend my money. As a small-business owner, there are required guidelines to help you make changes so you can adequately serve customers with disabilities and I will patronize your business.
The American’s with Disabilities Act has been in effect for 20 years. The Department of Justice issued an “update” with the effective date of March 15, 2011. The compliance date is March 15, 2012. Nearly all types of businesses, even nonprofits that serve the public by providing goods and services are subject to compliance.
Quoting from the Update: “The American’s with Disabilities Act, ADA, strikes a careful balance between increasing access for people with disabilities and recognizing the financial constraints many small businesses face. Its flexible requirements allow businesses confronted with limited financial resources to improve accessibility without excessive expense.”
Architectural barriers in existing structures, altered facilities or newly built facilities are required to be accessible to individuals with disabilities. Grandfather provisions found in local building codes do not exempt businesses from their obligations under the ADA. The purpose of the update focuses on the customer accessing the goods and services, therefore there are no exemptions based on the number of employees.
If the business was built or altered during the past 20 years and has complied with the 1991 standards you do not have to make further modifications — even if the 2010 standards are different. This provision is applied on an element-by-element basis and is referred to as the “safe harbor.”
An example would be the 1991 standards require one van accessible space for every eight accessible spaces. The 2010 standards require one van space for every six accessible spaces.
If you choose to alter that element by re-striping your parking lot, which is considered an alteration, you will now have to meet the one-to-six requirement.
Alteration of facilities or elements would not be required to be brought into compliance with the 2010 standards until such elements were subject to a planned alteration. Normal maintenance such as re-roofing, painting or wallpapering is not an alteration. However, as noted, re-striping a parking lot is considered an alteration of an element and would be subject to the 2010 Standards.
The ADA requires you to remove architectural barriers when it is “readily achievable” to do so. The update states, “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.
If your business has a step at the entrance door, then installing an entrance ramp would be a readily achievable barrier removal. The update states, “But if there is not enough space to install a ramp with the required slope, a business may install a ramp with a slightly steeper slope. However, any deviation from the standards must not pose a significant safety risk.”
“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.”
To assist small businesses, the IRS code includes a disabled access credit for business with total revenues of $1 million or less in the previous tax year or with 30 or fewer full-time employees. The maximum deduction in Section 190 of the IRS code is $15,000 per year.
The best way to ensure ADA compliance is to be proactive. Assess your facility and train your staff. Further information is available from the ADA Update: A Primer for Small Business located on the ada.gov website.
Free assistance also is available through the Southwest ADA Center by calling 1-800-949-4232 or by contacting the Angelo State University — Small Business Development Center at 325-942-2098.
“Business Tips” was written by Peggy Hodges Rosser, Rural Business Development Specialist and Certified Business Adviser IV of Angelo State University’s Small Business Development Center. Contact her at Peggy.Hodges@angelo.edu.