Is your building accessible to everyone?
Because of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), all public buildings are required to adhere to the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination by basis of disability. And you can be in violation if your structure has possible barriers that discourage its use by persons with disabilities.
The National Disability Authority recommends that buildings be audited every three years for ease of use. Ideally, you should have your facilities checked before you even start operations. Sometimes though, you open at an already existing establishment, like maybe you are only renting a small space for your shop at an old mall. The good news is, for limited enough spaces, you might be able to perform your own accessibility test on your own. All you’ll have to do is grab some measuring tools and find the help of another set of hands. In most cases however, it will be necessary to get the opinion of an expert.
What is a CASp report?
Even if you are only running a humble business, it will still be wiser to avail the services of a Certified Access Specialist (CASp), than checking for adherence to ADA standards by yourself. A CASp report can provide you with an analysis of your building’s accessibility as well as areas for improvement. Because CASps are certified by the state, this documentation goes on official record and can really prove a lot of help to you in the event that someone alleges a violation at your property.
Getting a CASp report has its perks. Of course, it’s never good news when someone raises a complaint against you. But if you already have an existing building accessibility analysis to your business’ name, this can avail you certain benefits under Senate Bill 1608. Namely, you can request for a 90-day stay of legal proceedings. And you can also convene with the complainant under watch of the court, via an Early Evaluation Conference. You might even forgo hiring your own lawyer to save these legal fees for other penalties you might encounter later on. Not to mention that you can choose to include this in your own marketing. Some businesses like to hang a sign at their windows informing customers that their shops have officially been analyzed and approved for accessibility.
Depending on your building’s location, the penalties and fees can get really expensive. For example, in California, apart from the ADA, you can also be punished under the Unruh Civil Rights Act which demands no less than $4,000 of statutory damages for each count of violation. But there’s no need to look up your own state’s regulations to know how they penalize locally proven claims. It’s enough to remember that each person with a disability you lose as a client is lost income for you and your business. With the population of persons with disabilities currently living in America, this is a number you simply cannot undervalue. In the land of the free, everyone has the right to equal access and opportunities.