What You Should Know to Get Your Commercial Business ADA-Compliant in California
- Author:by Amy Fisher
Category: Home Improvement
ADA compliance is obligatory. In this article, we will discuss how a Certified Access Specialist (CASp) can assist you in making your business ADA-compliant in the state of California.
If you are a small business owner, you may be wondering if it’s worth the extra effort to bring your business into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in this economy. Read on to protect your business.
Table of Contents:
1. The Unruh Civil Rights Act
The ADA did not create an “accessibility law police force.” Instead, businesses are notified of their ADA violations by the lawyers of plaintiffs who have filed cases in court. This is because the ADA is primarily enforced through lawsuits, which can be one of the worst nightmares for any business owner.
In California it is important to note that, apart from the ADA, there is another important law in place that protects persons with disabilities from discrimination. The Unruh Civil Rights Act is a blanket law that makes it illegal to discriminate on many bases.
It is much, much older than the ADA itself, and because of this law plaintiffs can be awarded a minimum of $4,000 for each claim they raise. Business owners will have to pay for these statutory damages on top of attorneys’ fees incurred.
If that sounds like an incentive to find violations, it definitely is. It is why Californians are particularly motivated to identify businesses that do not toe the line in terms of accessibility law.
You probably won’t be surprised to find out that, due to the zeal of driven individuals who have made ADA litigation their bread and butter, the California government eventually stepped in to help shield responsible businesses from abuse.
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2. Certified Access Specialists: Senate Bill 1608
In 2008, SB 1608 established the CASp program. CASps are professionals who have passed the examination administered by the Division of the State Architect, qualifying them to conduct accessibility checks on businesses.
Getting a CASp inspection for your site is not mandatory, but you might regret not having had your establishment evaluated by a CASp when a lawsuit is filed against you.
Through the CASp program, businesses who have demonstrated their good faith efforts in ADA compliance by requesting an evaluation are rewarded with certain benefits in the event of an ADA claim.
3. Benefits of a CASp inspection:
- a) Sixty-day stay of court. With the presence of an existing CASp report, you are entitled to a 60-day delay on legal proceedings while you assess the claim and possibly open a dialogue with the plaintiff.
- b) Early Evaluation Conference. This is a court-overseen discussion between you and the claimant in which you might be able to negotiate the claim into a settlement, which can bring down your out-of-pocket costs.
With a CASp report under your belt, you become a qualified defendant in the case. That is why it is important to secure an inspection before a violation is claimed, not ex post facto. In some instances, you might not even have to hire a lawyer to defend you if you are capable of mitigating the damages yourself.
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4. Senate Bill 1186
Another important piece of California legislation of which to take note is SB 1186. Due to this bill, property owners are required to disclose to renters whether their facilities have been inspected by a CASp.
This means divulging vulnerability in the event that a site has not yet been checked by a specialist. Because of this requirement, all lessors should request an inspection to protect against a lawsuit.
5. ADA Compliance in Brief
In short, there aren’t a lot of options for California business owners who might want to delay conforming to ADA standards. You might be able to bide your time, but the delay will come at high risk to your business.
In order to reduce your risk of lawsuits, here are a few simple ways to make your establishment more accommodating for persons with disabilities.
- a. Remove barriers. The ADA is all about making facilities more accessible for people with disabilities. Consideration must be taken for individuals who use mobility devices like wheelchairs and canes. Your best guide in this area is the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design—but you have to brace yourself; this important list of guidelines is full of specific measurements that demand accuracy. There is an ADA checklist you can access online for such an endeavor.
- b. Train staff in ADA compliance awareness. Training is most necessary if you are in the service industry. Persons with disabilities will most likely require some assistance, especially in becoming familiar with your facility’s accommodations. It is best for your employees to be informed about the efforts you have made to be more accessible to all customers who come through your doors.
- c. Use ADA-compliant signage. You might not have realized the relevance of signage to ADA compliance, but now is your chance to remedy that. There are ADA-compliant signs for you to make use of that include pictures for non-readers or raised Braille characters for vision-impaired customers.
- d. Be more accepting of service animals. If you have a strict “No Pets” rule in your establishment, you might want to read more about service animals. Make sure that your staff members are aware that customers who declare their dogs as service animals must be allowed to have their dogs with them.
- Under the law, persons with disabilities are not obliged to show proof of their disability. Your staff is not allowed to question your clients, beyond asking what the service animal is trained to do. You should also consider how you will communicate your pet policy to your customers. A clear sign indicating that you welcome service animals should do the trick.
In order to answer your remaining questions and make sure you haven’t missed anything, seek out the help of a CASp. This will ensure that you have proper documentation of your due diligence.
Since CASps are expertly trained, they will also be able to identify your blind spots, which might be glaring hooks for would-be litigants. It might feel like a small pinch today, but it will be a great investment for your business’ tomorrow.
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