Disability access compliance for businesses
State and federal law, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), are designed to ensure access and protect against discrimination for people with disabilities. These laws apply to businesses, landlords, and employers. Because of the overlap, business owners have multiple areas of compliance to consider.
Disability access laws require facilitating access to your business for people with disabilities, and removing barriers. What might be required in your case will depend on the type of business you run. It often involves such items as providing parking, having a wheelchair ramp, having aisles and doorways large enough for a wheelchair to pass, automatic door openers, etc.
The first step is determining if your particular business is covered by the relevant laws. If your business offers goods and services to the public, or if you operate a commercial facility, you will generally be required to comply.
For new buildings, construction must be done according to ADA guidelines. Older facilities must make necessary adjustments if “readily achievable.”
In addition to the building itself, your business' policies and practices may require some adjustment as well. This might involve changes to policy manuals, as well as conducting employee training, in order to prevent disability discrimination against clients or customers, even by accident.
Not only does compliance with disability access law help prevent lawsuits, but it makes it easier for more people to become customers or clients of your business. If you rent a commercial space, both landlord and tenant are responsible for compliance.
Both the ADA and California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibit discrimination in employment. This applies to applicants as well as employees. This may involve making “reasonable accommodations” to allow someone to do the job. Some of the many things to consider are:
- Determining which laws apply to your business or organization
- Identifying protected groups and conditions that qualify as a disability under the law
- Training your employees and supervisors to follow all legal requirements
- Determining the steps necessary to make accommodations for employees and applicants
- Drafting proper job descriptions during the hiring process
- Developing policies that prevent disability discrimination
- Developing hiring processes that comply with the law, avoid making illegal inquiries, and keep proper records
- Avoiding discrimination in employment awards, benefits, and even the termination of employees
- Providing required notice to employees regarding their rights
- Complying with sick leave and related requirements for those with disabilities and those who become pregnant
- Staying current with the law and how it applies to your business
Lawsuits by employees can be devastating to a business. Making sure to stay in compliance with all applicable laws is one way to avoid such litigation.
Not only is it sometimes difficult to maintain compliance with all laws and regulations, it can also be expensive. For this reason, you should seek out qualified counsel who can help you not only follow the law, but take advantage of tax credits and deductions that can help offset your financial burden.
Helix Law Firm can help with ADA compliance
If you are a business owner, we can help determine what laws apply to your situation, and help you become compliant and stay that way. Additionally, if you are subject to a lawsuit, we can help you respond and fight for you in court, if necessary.