ADA Small Business Compliance
The Basic Idea
Small business owners with a business that provides goods or services to the public are required by a federal civil rights law called the Americans with Disabilities Act, commonly referred to as the ADA, to meet certain specific guidelines.
They were created with the idea of removing barriers to independent living for people with disabilities. The goal is to create equal opportunities in employment, remove architectural barriers and to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities.
The Americans with Disabilities Act defines disability as a physical or mental impairment that significantly limits one or more major life activities. There is an update for small businesses on the government ADA website that is fairly comprehensible here.
Who Does It Apply To?
The Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA applies to state and local governments as well as private businesses or public accommodations. It even applies to the federal government. If your small business has goods or services for sale to the public, you must be in ADA compliance.
There are 12 categories listed which cover just about every kind of public business you can think of, and it does NOT matter how big or small. If you serve the public, you must meet these ADA regulations.
What Do I Have To Do Re: Employment ?
Small businesses should consider qualified people with disabilities when they hire employees. There are multiple benefits, one of which is a tax credit when you hire a disabled employee. Employment related opportunities for the disabled are often overlooked.
Keep in mind you are expected to provide reasonable accommodations to ensure the barrier removal of people with disabilities to perform their necessary job functions. (See below for more on a reasonable accommodation.)
You must also have legitimate safety requirements in place for the safe operation of your selling space or other public areas, which should be updated to include people with disabilities.
A reasonable accommodation does not infer having to spend money on something you only use for one employee. Here are a few examples:
- Allow employee to work from home, or on a flexible schedule
- Allow employee to bring their service animal to work
- Provide accessible parking in a reserved parking space for the employee
- Provide assistive technology software so employee can perform computer related job functions
- Provide a nearby accessible counter for an employee with a mobility disability
The request for a reasonable accommodation to be made is typically done by the employee, and considered on a case by case basis.
The bottom line is, all employers in public accommodations must exert a reasonable effort in providing what the employee needs, as long as they are indeed qualified and able.
What Do I Need To Do Re: Access?
The ADA has come out with the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design to guide public entities in accessibility challenges. Many businesses have limited resources and architectural barriers represent significant costs for existing buildings.
However, there are a multitude of different solutions available to small businesses, including low-cost alternatives. If you have limited financial resources or need assistance, you can contact the ADA National Network.
In short, accessible design is about barrier removal and easier navigation for those with disabilities to your business. The ADA requires businesses to provide accessible parking and accessible route to the entrance of existing facilities is required. This may also include a parking spot and a handicap parking sign. An accessible bathroom is necessary. ADA signage is also required, both for navigational purposes and for things like allowing service animals. Refer to the links provided within this article for specifics.
Communication With Customers
It is important to put into perspective the fact that there are more than 61 million American adults alone, who live with disabilities. That’s more than a quarter of the population that you are missing out on as customers, by not adapting to ADA standards for assisting customers with disabilities!
As they say, communication is key - and small businesses need effective communication solutions for their customers. What does this mean for you as a small business?
Take Necessary Steps
It means you must make reasonable efforts to take steps necessary for effective communication with all your customers, depending on what type of business you are. This does not exclude websites, since they are now one of the primary consumer resources.
If the situation necessitates an interpreter who knows sign language, there are video remote interpreters (VRI) available on an as-needed basis. However, if written notes back and forth will suffice then that is also acceptable. You get the picture.
Technical assistance for any technical specifications your business provides must be available to those with disabilities, as well.
The Bottom Line
The first thing to do is identify barriers within your business to those with mobility, hearing and vision disabilities. You want these patrons to be able to navigate the building without too much difficulty. It is about readily achievable barrier removal
If you aren’t aware, all new construction of commercial facilities built in 2012 or after are built using the 2010 Standards we linked to above under the re: access section. The idea is that eventually all public accommodations will automatically be accessible for all people.
ADA Central - ADA Signs
When your small business needs ADA signage, ADA Central is the authority on required ADA approved signs. Like any federal government mandated policy, there are endless specifics including measurements, fonts and even sign placement requirements.
ADA Central makes it easy with our huge stock inventory of standard ADA signs, as well as our ability to custom manufacture signs for your business if you prefer. We can answer any signage questions you have, and would like nothing more than to help your business become ADA compliant!
Check expedite order for faster delivery, and contact us right here on our homepage. For all your ADA signage needs, remember ADA Central.
Read our other article - ADA Business Requirements - A Simple Guide