Chicago Small Business Owners Feeling the Heat from ADA Lawsuits
Businesses that don’t meet compliance standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act could find themselves on the hook for some big-time costs if they are sued by organizations or individuals. This could be anything from a lack of handicapped restrooms, elevators or ramps to something as simple as accessible signage.
Even if the business decides to settle out of court, they could be forced to pay thousands of dollars in fines and upgrades, which could potentially be a killer to a small business without much cash flow to begin with.
A recent article in Forbes highlights some of the difficulties small business owners in Chicago have had in affording these types of payments. Many of them did not even realize they had been doing anything wrong.
One case mentioned in the article is that of Margot Sersen, the owner of LaSalle Flowers, who ultimately settled in the suit. Her storefront is an old building in the River North neighborhood of the city, dating back to the 19th century. Its step-up front entrance is right on the public sidewalk, which means there is no space for her to put in a permanent accessibility ramp. She assumed this inability, combined with the age of the property, meant she would be grandfathered in with the city and ineligible to be used.
However, she eventually received a letter from an attorney with the Accessibility Law Group, who stated his client was unable to get her wheelchair up the five-inch front step. Sersen learned throughout the coming weeks that the ADA does not contain any clauses that allow buildings to be “grandfathered in.” The onus is on small business owners to make their facilities accessible for everyone, regardless of the age of the building.
Eventually Sersen settled for $2,500, and paid $150 for a removable aluminum ramp. Had she not agreed to a settlement, she could have ended up paying $7,500. While this might not sound like a lot of money to larger businesses, it can be a major blow to small, family-run enterprises.
This is just another reason to constantly be proactive with your ADA compliance. Contact Erie Custom Signs for more information about how you can outfit your location with compliant signage.