Understanding the ADA: Avoiding ADA Lawsuits and More
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The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) has a huge impact on businesses and individuals throughout the United States. An important piece of civil rights legislation introduced nearly 30 years ago, the ADA has evolved over time, but its purpose has remained the same—to protect individuals with disabilities and prevent discrimination against them. This law has made it so that citizens with mobility issues, visual impairments, and other disabilities are treated fairly, ensuring that they have the same rights and privileges as everyone else.
Though our focus at Erie Custom Signs is ADA-compliant signage, we strive to educate the sign shops we partner with on all aspects of the ADA so they can provide their own clients with much-needed information.
Without a firm grasp of what the ADA covers, who it affects, and how violations are addressed, it’s all too easy for business owners to inadvertently restrict access to those with disabilities and get hit with ADA lawsuits or fines as a result.
Read on to learn more about how the ADA has evolved and the impact it has now.
A Brief History of the ADA
The first draft of the ADA was introduced in Congress in 1988. When the bill was being written, those involved modeled it after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The ADA was eventually signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush.
Since the ADA went into effect, it has undergone some changes. Most notably, on July 23, 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder signed final revisions to the Department of Justice’s ADA regulations. These revisions, which were officially published on September 15, 2010, pertain to Title II (state and local government services) and Title III (public accommodations and commercial facilities) regulations, including ADA Standards for Accessible Design.
Per the 2010 revisions…
- On or after March 15, 2012, public entities must comply with the 2010 Standards in making architectural changes to achieve program accessibility and for all new construction and alterations.
- On or after March 15, 2012, public entities must consider the supplemental requirements (such as swimming pools, play areas, and fishing piers) in the 2010 Standards to assess compliance with program accessibility.
Though the ADA has been modified over the years, its goal has always been the protection of U.S. citizens with disabilities, which means all entities mentioned in the law must comply with the regulations to avoid ADA lawsuits and fines.
Who Must Comply with the ADA?
As previously mentioned, Title II of the ADA relates to state and local government services, while Title III highlights public accommodations and commercial facilities. Since most sign shops are approached by business owners in need of ADA-compliant signage, Title III should be given particularly close attention.
Under Title III of the ADA, any business that serves the public in some capacity is required to adhere to ADA regulations.
Some examples of businesses that are considered “public accommodations” include the following:
- Health care centers
- Recreation venues
- Public transportation
- Social service centers
- And more…
Given that this is not an exhaustive list, it’s important to read the ADA in its entirety or at least partner with service providers who have expertise in this area.
Should businesses fail to meet their responsibilities under the ADA, they could end up with costly ADA lawsuits or fines…
Recent ADA Lawsuits and Legislation in the News
In the last year, a number of businesses have been involved in ADA lawsuits for restricting access to individuals with disabilities.
- Two wheelchair-bound individuals filed a lawsuit against a shopping center in Florida for architectural boundaries that restrict equal access and enjoyment of the facilities.
- A restaurant in California was sued by an individual who claimed the establishment was inaccessible to disabled visitors.
- A pool hall in California shut down after facing litigation from a disabled attorney who claimed the establishment was not ADA compliant.
ADA lawsuits are not uncommon, which is why legislation has been proposed to help combat the issue.
Earlier this year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the ADA Education and Reform Act, which gives businesses additional time to address ADA violations. However, an alternative to this bill was introduced more recently—the Disabled Access Credit Expansion Act, which would further assist businesses in paying for necessary renovations by doubling the maximum tax credit allowed by the Disabled Access Credit and allowing more small businesses to receive it.
Only time will tell which piece of legislation will achieve its goal of incentivizing business owners to get their buildings up to code and ensure equal access for all visitors, thereby avoiding potential ADA lawsuits and fines.
Despite having been in effect for nearly 30 years, the ADA is still misunderstood by many business owners. This lack of knowledge can result in businesses alienating individuals with disabilities and creating an unwelcome environment for customers.
And the monetary consequences can be even greater. ADA lawsuits and fines can have damaging effects on businesses, even forcing them to close their doors for good.
That’s why sign shops that are contacted by businesses looking to achieve ADA compliance need to be well-versed in the rules and regulations that apply to public places. Though ADA signage is a small investment compared to ramps, elevators, handicap restrooms, and other accessibility features, failure to install the right displays can be just as detrimental to a business. For those that lack the equipment or know-how to create ADA signage, outsourcing to a third party is the best course of action to ensure a client’s order is handled correctly.