8 Tips For Avoiding an ADA Lawsuit

Like it or not, as a business owner you are responsible for remaining compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The law, in a nutshell, requires compliance to make your facilities accessible to the disabled, but it isn’t until someone sues you citing the ADA that things get really expensive. The best tactic is to try to avoid these lawsuits before they happen. The good news: As a small business owner you may also qualify for tax credits by making the necessary changes.

ADA compliance issues can get confusing (consult an attorney if you have any questions), but here are a few basic tips to help keep you out of the courtroom. You may not be able to take all of these steps without spending a fortune, but the more you can get done, the less likely you are to face a lawsuit.

    1) Have your business checked by an ADA qualified inspector. They can provide you with a report that lists any known issues.
    2) Barriers that block access for disabled persons to pass through should be removed. Check entrances to make sure accessible equipment is in working order, including elevators, automatic door openers, and wheelchair lifts.
    3) Offer to come to customers who are physically unable to come to your location. Conveniently place these notices where they are visible to the public. This will show that you are making an effort to meet the needs of your customers even if your building isn’t up to code.
    4) Ensure handicapped parking is clearly marked and close to the facilities. Ensure the spaces are large enough so wheelchairs can maneuver around easily.
    5) Washrooms must allow for handicapped access; designate washrooms or stalls for the handicapped equipped with grab bars.
    6) Have soap dispensers and paper towel dispensers placed at a height of 48 inches off the floor. This is actually convenient for everyone (including children), not just disabled customers. All bathroom equipment should require minimal effort to operate: specifically, less than five pounds of force.
    7) Entrance doors are required to be at least 36 inches wide and have 32 inches of space when open, the standard for most modern doors. Doors that don’t meet this requirement may have to be replaced. (Updated.)
    8) If you have a sales or service counter check that it is no higher than 36 inches tall. If this isn’t feasible, designate an area where handicapped shoppers can receive assistance.

About Tomica Bonner

Located in Ohio, Tomica Bonner has been writing finance articles since 2008 and her articles have been published on websites such as Chron and Business. You can also follow her on twitter at MicasTruth
This entry was posted in Marketing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.
7 comments
Jay Badenhope
Jay Badenhope

Hi Jeff, Thanks for your comment. Is there a specific Intuit product that you think could be more accessible for small business customers with disabilities? I'd like to share your feedback with our product managers. Sorry you didn't like the introduction to the article. I felt we were doing a service to both small business owners and their disabled clients by publishing this story and bringing awareness to this topic. Are there additional online resources you'd like to mention for people interested in learning more about this important topic?Best wishes for you and your business, Jay B. (Manager of the Intuit Small Business Blog)

Jeff Olander
Jeff Olander

One more comment, the "Like it or not" at the beginning is extremely pejorative to persons with disabilities. Clearly, your knowledge of and empathy for those 55 million persons with disabilities, which include approximately 40% of small business owners in the U.S, does this important topic a disservice.

Jeff Olander
Jeff Olander

Your advice is appropriate for the most basic level of physical access in any public-facing business. However, it is ironic that this is posted on the Intuit Small Business Blog since none of Intuit's desktop or web products is designed to be accessible to persons with visual, motor, and cognitive disabilities. I would like to see this blog address the issue of application access with Intuit product development.

Tomica Bonner
Tomica Bonner

Michael, thanks for taking the time out to read my article and offer your support on these issues. However, there is a link included above where readers can view the government's "ABA Guide for Small Businesses." This offers more detailed information related to compliance regulations.In-regards to comment #6, while you are correct in that toilet fixtures and accessories shall be operable without tight grasping, pinching or twisting of the wrist. This is inclusive in staying under the five pounds of force.With comment number #7, the door size should be a standard 36" with an opening of 32." Thanks for bringing this to my attention.Tomica Bonner

Michael Allen - Accessibility Specialist ICC
Michael Allen - Accessibility Specialist ICC

This article is not quite accurate. Yes, an effort to make your business accessible is probably helpful but ... if you haven't actually 'complied' with the law you might still get a complaint -- a complaint that could lead to a lawsuit if the plaintiff and attorney are aggressive.The advice to use an accessibility specialist is a good one. Find out everything that is non-compliant then develop a program for fixing the issues over time. This kind of proactive program complies with federal law. You should keep a record of your plan and your progress so IF you go to court or arbitration you will have good faith evidence. You might be asked to immediately repair a troublesome non-compliant element but you will probably avoid other penalties if you are honestly trying. If full compliance is a financial burden you may phase in the needed upgrades.There are very specific rules for parking; accessible parking must comply with them. A vague caution to make sure the spaces are big enough and close enough -- poor advice. Remember, your parking lot, accessible path and entrance are the first things that disabled people have to deal with when they come to your business. If you don't get that right you have a disgruntled customer -- or worse, you show that you don't really care about complying with the law. You set yourself up to be a target for closer inspection.The five-pound rule in #6 applies to door opening force. Toilet fixtures and accessories fall under a different rule: they shall be operable without tight grasping, pinching or twisting of the wrist.Comment #7 says that 36" is required at accessible doors. That is not true - 32" clear is the rule. A 36" door has a nominal 32" clear opening in the open position.I am sure that Ms. Bonner has the best of intentions but her technical points are not quite on the mark. Drawing attention to ADA compliance is good but this article is not authoritative and does little to help a small business avoid ADA complaints.

Real World Traffic
Real World Traffic

Thanks for this - I never think about these types of potential issues until it's too late or there's already a problem (lawsuit).