So you have finally decided that you want to chase that dream and start your own business. You have found a partner, chosen the theme, researched possible suppliers, worked out the budget, and picked out the perfect location.
Now is the time to ask yourself the following questions:
What Is the ADA and Why Should My Business Be Compliant?
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is a civil rights law that was enacted thirty years ago. It is a law protecting the rights of persons with disabilities to enjoy equal opportunities especially in places of public accommodation. Since you will be operating your business in a physical location, it will be considered a commercial facility. Thus, you will need to comply with the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design that was released by the US Department of Justice a decade ago.
What If the Building I Will Be Using Is Already ADA Compliant?
If you are creating a business from scratch, this means that your site will need to go through renovations. It could be because of the particular theme you have chosen for your business, whether it is a restaurant, a retail outlet, or an art gallery. Making any changes will require it to be inspected regardless if it has been checked before. This is a good thing because assessing for compliance is a preventive measure for any violations that you might unknowingly encounter.
Am I Reconstructing the Whole Building, Only Altering Some Features, or Also Expanding the Site?
In a business sense, this is important for considering how much of your budget will be appropriated for reconstruction. You have to consider how much space your facility will need to use depending on your expected clientele, and the moving parts that you will need for operations. In particular, the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design defines alterations as, “a change in a building or facility that affects or could affect the usability of a building or facility or portion thereof.”
Are you completely renovating the toilet or does the site need to actually add another comfort facility? Are you only changing the interior design in line with your vision for your business’ theme? These concerns are necessary to consider because the ADA has very particular minimum requirements for accessibility that need your awareness.
Is There a Way for Me To Check If I Am Following the ADA’s Standards?
Even now while you haven’t pursued any building modifications, you can already go online to see particular details of the guidelines that you should consider before designing your new business location. You can access a checklist online so that you can set your expectations on how to go about planning. Remember, it is best to consult with a professional before you set about doing this task. Although it can be performed by a civilian, it might be safer to practice caution by having it done by an expert in the ADA regulations.
Which Professionals Can I Hire To Help Me With Building Modifications?
Aside from architects, designers, and engineers that you might readily consult for such a project, you can also talk to your lawyer about your plans for restructuring. Consulting your lawyer can assure you that your decisions are the best way forward.
However, since we are already talking about the ADA, you might also want to consider contracting what we call a Certified Access Specialist (CASp). A CASp is an expert who has passed a state test on accessibility rules and regulations. They are qualified to perform inspections and furnish you with a report on the current compliance status of your business location. CASps are usually contacted when you are ready to conduct business as one of the final tests before operations.
They can help you evaluate if you no longer have any necessary amendments to make before officially opening up shop. A CASp report on your business can also be very helpful to you in the future.
In the unfortunate scenario that a complaint is filed against the business, it can afford you a ‘Qualified Defendant’ status in the case and entitle you to a 90-day stay of court and early evaluation conference. This has been considered a necessary investment by some in order to protect themselves from any inconveniences that may arise.
The fact that you are here reading this now is a step in the right direction. Since you are checking for ADA compliance, this is an acknowledgment of the importance of safeguarding the rights of everyone against discrimination regardless of age, gender, or presence of a disability. In this day and age, more and more lawsuits due to ADA violations are becoming the norm and it is also in your interest to make sure that this is something you don’t experience.
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