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Your Business and the ADA: Ensuring Accessibility and Inclusion

by David R. Bohm

It is important for small businesses to be aware of and comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA has two sections that can potentially impact small businesses: Title I and Title III.

Title I of the ADA applies to businesses with 15 or more employees (or 6 or more employees under the Missouri Human Rights Act) and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. This means making modifications or adjustments to the work environment that enable employees to perform their job duties which could include providing assistive devices, modifying work schedules, or allowing telecommuting.

Title III applies to all businesses, regardless of their size, and requires them to make their physical premises accessible to individuals with disabilities. A key aspect is the removal of architectural barriers that may hinder accessibility and ensuring that physical structures are designed and constructed in a way that accommodates individuals with disabilities. Elements such as entrances, parking spaces, ramps, doorways, hallways, and restrooms must be accessible to people with mobility impairments.

When constructing a new building or making alterations or renovations to an existing building, businesses are generally required to comply with the ADA Standards for Accessible Design adopted by the Department of Justice in 2010. However, even if a business is not engaged in construction or renovation, they still have an obligation to make alterations to their premises to provide access if it is “reasonably achievable.” The term “reasonably achievable” has not been precisely defined, but courts consider factors such as the nature and cost of barrier removal, the business’ financial resources, technical difficulties, the number of employees and visitors, safety requirements, and the impact on business operations.

The ADA guidance recommends that businesses develop a long-term plan to address barriers to accessibility, as it is not expected that all barriers can be removed simultaneously due to resource constraints. ADA regulations identify four priority areas for barrier removal: (1) getting employees and customers through the door (e.g., appropriate parking spaces and ramps) (2) providing access to goods and services, (3) accessible restrooms (some businesses may not be required to provide public restrooms), and (4) any remaining barriers.

Title III of the ADA also addresses the issue of ADA compliance for websites. While the specific guidelines and requirements for website accessibility are not explicitly outlined in the ADA itself, the Department of Justice has indicated that websites may be considered places of public accommodation under Title III (see Clicking Towards Disaster: The Cost of ADA Non-Compliant Websites”).

It is important for small businesses to take ADA compliance seriously, as there has been an increase in threats and lawsuits against businesses in the St. Louis area for non-compliance. All small businesses should develop an ADA compliance plan and implement it as soon as possible. Consult with your legal advisor about your accessibility plans and to respond to lawsuits or threats of suit.

David R. Bohm litigation attorney with Danna McKitrick, P.C (www.dannamckitrick.com), works with health care, government, and business clientele. He handles matters involving employment, trademark, copyright, trade secret, cybersecurity and data protection, and complex contracts. He represents clients before various administrative agencies and is skilled in mediation and arbitration techniques as an alternative to litigation. David can be reached at 314.889.7135, dbohm@dmfirm.com, or by visiting www.dannamckitrick.com.

Submitted 332 days ago
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