If you're a small business owner with an establishment that accommodates the public, you could be facing lawsuits if your business is not universally accessible. The Wall Street Journal recently reported a spike in lawsuits and the existence of 'testers' who go around certain cities to see if establishments comply with the appropriate standards. In the state of California, you could be facing claims from $4,000 not including the legal fees and legal representation. 2013 saw an increase in ADA related lawsuits and this could be a portent of things to come for establishments which doesn't make the appropriate renovations.
Ramps, signs, markings and lifts form the basic requirements which have been rejuvenated with stronger compliance and enforcement laws. Making businesses and organizations comply with these requirements is a gargantuan task which is using both the carrot and the stick method. The carrot comes in the form of tax credits for businesses that "remove barriers and provide accessibility equipment to customers and employees". The stick, which some businesses has come to know involve the pain of forced renovation, lawsuits, hefty expenses and of course the stress of dealing with lawyers.
The US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division cites the following figures that encompasses the issue:
- 6,000,000 private enterprises and non-profits
- 80,000 state and local government units
- 49,000,000 disabled people
- 100+ federal agencies
Testers: Controversy or Necessity?
"Testers" are private individuals who go around looking for establishments that do not comply with existing ADA standards. The WSJ article references these individuals as not necessarily paying patrons of an establishment who can bring about claims and damages against businesses that do not comply. The natural reaction of business owners would of course react unfavorably to these because of the possibility of unforeseen legal and renovation expenses. On the other hand, the provision of tax credits for businesses that comply is a positive reinforcement mechanism that makes the prospect of renovation and compliance more attractive.
The message is clear and simple: the proactive provision for the accessibility requirements is a win-win proposition. You save money on legal expenses and claims, have some tax credits and you also get the added benefit of having more customers who will have the opportunity to frequent and enjoy your establishment. It's highly advisable to consult an ADA specialist because you may be overlooking a guideline that may be absent in your premises. One such thing noted in the WSJ article is the provision for pool lifts especially in hotels and resorts.
By consulting and complying, you open up your business to new possibilities and with the added satisfaction that you are making your business a better place for all.
For more information, you could visit the Americans with Disabilities Act website over at ADA.gov or call an ADA specialist at 800-514-0301.
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