Disability Rights took a giant leap forward with the passage of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA requires that businesses remove architectural barriers in existing facilities when it is “readily achievable” to do so. Readily achievable means “easily accomplishable without much difficulty or expense.” This requirement is based on the size and resources of a business. Therefore, businesses with more resources are expected to remove more barriers than businesses with fewer resources.
Covered businesses include:
- Places of lodging (e.g., inns, hotels, motels) (except for owner-occupied establishments renting fewer than six rooms);
- Establishments serving food or drink (e.g., restaurants and bars);
- Places of exhibition or entertainment (e.g., motion picture houses, theaters, concert halls, stadiums);
- Places of public gathering (e.g., auditoriums, convention centers, lecture halls);
- Sales or rental establishments (e.g., bakeries, grocery stores, hardware stores, shopping centers);
- Service establishments (e.g., laundromats, dry-cleaners, banks, barber shops, beauty shops, travel services, shoe repair services, funeral parlors, gas stations, offices of accountants or lawyers, pharmacies, insurance offices, professional offices of health care providers, hospitals);
- Public transportation terminals, depots, or stations (not including facilities relating to air transportation);
- Places of public display or collection (e.g., museums, libraries, galleries);
- Places of recreation (e.g., parks, zoos, amusement parks);
- Places of education (e.g., nursery schools, elementary, secondary, undergraduate, or postgraduate private schools);
- Social service center establishments (e.g., day care centers, senior citizen centers, homeless shelters, food banks, adoption agencies); and
- Places of exercise or recreation (e.g., gymnasiums, health spas, bowling alleys, golf courses).
Examples of readily achievable barrier removal include:
- Installing ramps;
- Making curb cuts in sidewalks and entrances;
- Repositioning shelves;
- Rearranging tables, chairs, vending machines, display racks, and other furniture;
- Repositioning telephones;
- Adding raised markings on elevator control buttons;
- Installing flashing alarm lights;
- Widening doors;
- Installing offset hinges to widen doorways;
- Eliminating a turnstile or providing an alternative accessible path;
- Installing accessible door hardware;
- Installing grab bars in toilet stalls;
- Rearranging toilet partitions to increase maneuvering space;
- Insulating lavatory pipes under sinks to prevent burns;
- Installing a raised toilet seat;
- Installing a full-length bathroom mirror;
- Repositioning the paper towel dispenser in a bathroom;
- Creating designated accessible parking spaces;
- Installing an accessible paper cup dispenser at an existing inaccessible water fountain;
- Removing high pile, low density carpeting; or
- Installing vehicle hand controls.
When a small business undertakes an alteration to any of its facilities, it must, to the maximum extent feasible, make the alteration accessible. An alteration is defined as remodeling, renovating, rehabilitating, reconstructing, changing or rearranging structural parts or elements, changing or rearranging plan configuration of walls and full-height partitions, or making other changes that affect (or could affect) the usability of the facility.
Examples include restriping a parking lot, moving walls, moving a fixed ATM to another location, installing a new sales counter or display shelves, changing a doorway entrance, replacing fixtures, flooring or carpeting. Normal maintenance, such as reroofing, painting, or wallpapering, is not an alteration.
The process of determining what changes are readily achievable is not a one-time effort; access should be evaluated annually. Barrier removal that might be difficult to carry out now may be readily achievable later. Tax incentives are available to help absorb costs over several years.