Are You ADA Compliant or Are You a Law Suit Waiting To Happen?
ADA Compliance Process
The complex area of disabled access compliance is unique in California in that not only are there state codes and regulations that must be met, but there are also federal code requirements and the two do not always compliment one another. Add to this that both federal and state codes are continually evolving and you have an environment that can be very confusing for building owners and operators.
When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 1990, was enacted and became law, it made equal access a constitutional right.
In 1990 when the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted and became law, it made equal access a constitutional right. Prior to this there were other requirements regarding disabled access barrier removal, but with the enactment of the ADA, this was formalized. ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, State and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. It has been many years since the ADA became law, and Courts look dimly on public entities which have not met the law’s basic requirements. The ADA is a federal mandate that carries heavy fines and penalties for noncompliance, not to mention the potential for expensive lawsuits.
The Department of Justice published revised regulations for Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) in the Federal Register on September 15, 2010. These regulations adopted revised, enforceable accessibility standards called the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design “2010 Standards”. On March 15, 2012, compliance with the 2010 Standards will be required for new construction and alterations. In the period between September 15, 2010 and March 15, 2012, covered entities may choose between the 1991 Standards (without the elevator exemption for Title II facilities), the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (Title II facilities only), and the 2010 Standards.
Businesses Cannot Afford to be out of ADA Compliance.
Any business that interfaces with the public is responsible for complying with ADA accessibility guidelines. Private individuals may bring lawsuits in which they can obtain court orders to stop discrimination and file for damages. Individuals may also file complaints with the Attorney General, who is authorized to bring lawsuits in cases of general public importance or where a pattern or practice of discrimination is alleged. In these cases, the Attorney General may seek monetary damages and civil penalties. Civil penalties may not exceed $50,000 for a first violation or $100,000 for any subsequent violation.
State and Federal Accessibility Regulations?
The State adopts and mandates compliance with State Building Codes which incorporate the accessibility requirements. Unfortunately, State accessibility codes are not always the same or more stringent then the ADA federal regulations. In new construction, local jurisdictions only enforce State accessibility codes, as they are not vested with the authority to enforce federal ADA regulations, however federal laws mandates you comply with ADA. The responsibility for compliance lies ultimately with the owner and the architect overseeing the project. This is why the State created CASp professionals, to assist people in complying fully with all of the confusing and sometimes conflicting accessibility laws, regulations and standards.
The Landlord or the Tenant: Leased Properties that Interface With the Public
ADA Requirements and New Construction
The ADA requires that all new construction of places of public accommodation, as well as of “commercial facilities” such as office buildings, be accessible. Elevators are generally not required in facilities under three stories or with fewer than 3,000 square feet per floor, unless the building is a shopping center or mall; the professional office of a health care provider; a terminal, depot, or other public transit station; or an airport passenger terminal.
ADA Requirements and Renovating or Altering Facilities
All alterations that can affect the usability and accessibility of a facility must be made in an accessible manner to the maximum extent feasibly possible. For example, if during renovations a doorway is being relocated, the new doorway must be wide enough to meet the new construction standard for accessibility. When alterations are made to a specific tenant space, an accessible path of travel to the altered area must be provided. The bathrooms, telephones, and drinking fountains serving that area must also be made accessible. These additional accessibility alterations are only required to the extent that the added accessibility costs do not exceed 20% of the cost of the total alteration. Elevators are generally not required in facilities under three stories or with fewer than 3,000 square feet per floor, unless the building is a shopping center or mall; the professional office of a health care provider; a terminal, depot, or other public transit station; or an airport passenger terminal.