ADA: The Three-Letter Word You Should Know
Embodying the old adage, the road to hell is paved with good intentions the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) began as a move towards equality but has darkened into a curse word. A three letter word. The irony is most companies are more than happy to comply with disabled access regulations and care deeply about their customers, employees, and overall safety, yet collectively everyone girds themselves for impending lawsuits that seem predatory. Here we provide a look back at ADA origins and look at the big picture items you should know.
Americans with Disabilities Act: A History
Passed by Congress in 1990, The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) “is the nation’s first comprehensive civil rights law addressing the needs of people with disabilities, prohibiting discrimination in employment, public services, public accommodations, and telecommunications.” In 2008, congress furthered the definition to include those with specific medical disorders like diabetes, depression, and others (http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2015/07/27/ada-americans–disabilities-act-lawsuits/30702519/). Then, in 2011 amendments to the Department’s 1991 Title II with adjustments to the Code for Federal Regulation (CFR) went into effect.
In 2013 EEOC reported a 9% increase of ADA-related lawsuits from the previous year. That number jumped in 2014 to 40%. At the close of 2015 that number had skyrocketed to 63% (http://www.icsc.org/sct/newsletters/article/landlords-grapple-with-more-ada-lawsuits/). So what do all these numbers mean to you? Besides, fearing for a lawsuit, that is.
What to Know about ADA
There is No Warning. As the law stands currently, there is no warning mechanism in place. That means, there is no prior notice that will allow you to make changes to your establishment or even know of the suit until it is filed. The lower end of these suits can cost up to $50,000. This, perhaps not so coincidentally, is also the scariest thing to know about ADA. The best approach is to be proactive and pursue ADA for your establishment before it is an issue.
Get an ADA Expert. This may sound like a no brainer, but this piece of advice is tricky. Not everyone that claims to be an expert is an expert. Only those with an architecture background can qualify to even be called an ADA expert. So, properly vet your code experts and dig into their resume. If they have an architecture background you are golden. If not, you may want to rethink whose screening your plans for ADA compliance and advocating on your behalf.
Not One Size Fits All. Similar to International Code Council (ICC) codes each jurisdictions has the authority to modify codes and regulations to fit their specific needs. Most jurisdictions have an ADA, or sometimes called Disabled Access Services, department that will conduct the plan check for their specific codes. Again, getting a local ADA expert (see above advice) can help cut down review times, not to mention costs, while you proactively seek to be ADA compliant.
While predatory lawsuits are at an all-time high, there are ways to protect yourself. The best way is to get an expert and Permit Advisors can help. Our project managers all have architecture backgrounds and know ADA. We work nation-wide and do more than carry plans for you to the city. We are your team. Contact us today to discuss your ADA needs.
About Permit Advisors: Permit Advisors Inc. is a complete permit, entitlement consulting, and expediting firm based out of Beverly Hills, Ca. We go beyond just submitting plans, as you may have experienced with previous expediters. We have established strong relationships with officials of many municipalities and have numerous time and cost saving strategies that we implement to efficiently complete projects. We aim to secure all permits as quickly as possible! We keep track of all the different aspects of the permitting process and make sure that the project is being given full attention by everyone on the team. We responsibly update clients and ensure that lines of communication are open between the Jurisdiction, the consultants and the client at all times. Contact us today for a consultation www.permitadvisors.com.