Accessible Design Associates, LLC consults with business and city/county governments of all sizes in understanding their rights and responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Your facilities need to be accessible to everyone. ADA, LLC protects our clients in their accessibility obligations by facilitating clients in their good faith efforts in meeting and maintaining ADA compliance without undue burdens.
Who is covered by the ADA?
Businesses that provide goods or services to the public are called “public accommodations” in the ADA. The ADA establishes requirements for 12 categories of public accommodations, which include stores, restaurants, bars, service establishments, theaters, hotels, recreational facilities, museums, schools, doctors’ and dentists’ offices, shopping malls, and other businesses. Nearly all types of businesses that serve the public are included in the 12 categories, regardless of the size of the business or the age of their buildings.
Businesses covered by the ADA are required to modify their business policies and procedures when necessary to serve customers with disabilities and take steps to communicate effectively with customers with disabilities. The ADA also requires businesses to remove architectural barriers in existing buildings and make sure that newly built or altered facilities are constructed to be accessible to individuals with disabilities. “Grandfather provisions” often found in local building codes do not exempt businesses from their obligations under the ADA.
Commercial facilities, such as office buildings, factories, warehouses, or other facilities that do not provide goods or services directly to the public are only subject to the ADA’s requirements for new construction and alterations.
More than 50 million Americans – 18% of our population – have disabilities, and each is a potential customer. People with disabilities are living more independently and participating more actively in their communities. They and their families want to patronize businesses that welcome customers with disabilities. Studies show that once people with disabilities find a business where they can shop, or get services in an accessible manner, they become repeat customers.
People with disabilities have too often been excluded from everyday activities: shopping at a corner store, going to a neighborhood restaurant or movie with family and friends, or using the swimming pool at a hotel on the family vacation. The ADA is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and opens doors for full participation in all aspects of everyday life. The ADA applies to both the built environment and to policies and procedures that affect how a business provides goods and services to its customers. With the guidance of ADA, LLC, a small business owner or manager can ensure that it will not unintentionally exclude people with disabilities and will know when it needs to remove barriers in existing facilities.
Making the Built Environment Accessible
The 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.
The ADA’s regulations and the ADA Standards for Accessible Design, originally published in 1991, set the standard for what makes a facility accessible. These standards are the key for determining if a small business’s facilities are accessible under the ADA. However, they are used differently depending on whether a small business is altering an existing building, building a brand new facility, or removing architectural barriers that have existed for years.
Readily Achievable Barrier Removal
The ADA requires that small businesses remove architectural barriers in existing facilities when it is “readily achievable” to do so. 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.
Determining what is readily achievable will vary from business to business and sometimes from one year to the next. Changing economic conditions can be taken into consideration in determining what is readily achievable. Economic downturns may force many public accommodations to postpone removing some barriers. The barrier removal obligation is a continuing one and it is expected that a business will move forward with its barrier removal efforts when it rebounds from such downturns.
New Construction and Alterations
The ADA requires that all new facilities built by public accommodations, including small businesses, must be accessible to and usable by people with disabilities.
When a small business undertakes an alteration to any of its facilities, it must, to the maximum extent feasible, make the alteration accessible. An alteration is defined as remodeling, renovating, rehabilitating, reconstructing, changing or rearranging structural parts or elements, changing or rearranging plan configuration of walls and full-height partitions, or making other changes that affect (or could affect) the usability of the facility. Examples include restriping a parking lot, moving walls, moving a fixed ATM to another location, installing a new sales counter or display shelves, changing a doorway entrance, replacing fixtures, flooring or carpeting.
Tax Credit and Deduction
To assist small businesses to comply with the ADA, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Code includes a Disabled Access Credit (Section 44) for businesses with 30 or fewer full-time employees or with total revenues of $1 million or less in the previous tax year. Eligible expenses may include the cost of undertaking barrier removal and alterations to improve accessibility, providing sign-language interpreters, or making material available in accessible formats such as Braille, audiotape, or large print.
Section 190 of the IRS Code provides a tax deduction for businesses of all sizes for costs incurred in removing architectural barriers in existing facilities or alterations. The maximum deduction is $15,000 per year. For more information on the Disabled Access Tax Credit (Form 8826) and Section 190 Tax Deduction (Publication 535 “Business Expenses”) please call the Internal Revenue Service at (800) 829-3676 (voice) or (800) 829-4059 (TTY).