Many small business owners do not think about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when they launch their businesses. You’re thinking about selling products, delivering services, and in general being the best business owner you can be.
Yet at some point even a business that operates largely online or in people’s homes will need to think about ADA issues. Businesses that operate in a physical location will need to think on them sooner rather than later.
The ADA exists to ensure that the 18% of the population that has disabilities are not excluded from public life.
Failing to become ADA-compliant can lead to lawsuits.
You must make reasonable accommodations to assist people with disabilities.
“The ADA applies to both the built environment and to policies and procedures that affect how a business provides goods and services to its customers.” -The US Department of Justice, ADA Update, A Primer for Small Business.
These accommodations usually do not require you to fundamentally alter the nature of your business. At times you may be asked to alter the architecture of your building or facilities in some ways, though the ADA also does recognize that being asked to do so may create a financial hardship for small business owners. Much depends on whether you’ve taken over a much older building or whether you’re creating a new building from scratch.
The ADA requires you to remove architectural barriers when removing such barriers is a “readily achievable” prospect. Adding a ramp might be achievable in some businesses, in others, adding a policy that offers curbside service might be the better alternative.
Your website can spark ADA lawsuits.
Website accessibility claims are on the rise. Many disabled individuals rely heavily on online shopping to manage their day-to-day lives.While they have not yet been designated as “public accommodations” under the ADA, and while no clear guidance currently exists, it’s probably wise to simply assume that websites will soon fully come under the umbrella of the ADA. Why risk an expensive lawsuit if you don’t have to?
At a minimum, images should be populated with alternate text and elements which could make it difficult for a screen reader to parse text should be removed. There are IT experts who can help you make your website and social media presence more accessible.
Videos should add captions for deaf users.
Most heavily-text based websites will be in the clear as screen readers and braille technology both already exist to assist blind customers with screens.
Hiring an ADA compliance expert is an excellent way to manage lawsuit risk.
Every business is different. NFIB suggests that every small business take the time to have an ADA audit conducted. These audits can help you determine what reasonable accommodations a business like yours could be expected to make. It can help you find policy or procedural barriers you might not have thought of or point out where you have barriers to access that you might be expected to rectify.
Having met with an auditor and having followed their instructions can be an excellent piece of evidence in your defense as you can show that you have already made reasonable efforts to make reasonable accommodations.
Facing an ADA lawsuit? Call now.
Don’t ignore a lawsuit if it arrives. We help small businesses tackle lawsuits every day. We can help you decide if you need to make immediate accommodations, whether you need to settle, whether you need to take your case to trial and what you can do to mount a defense.
Contact Scott Richman Law today.
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Meet Mr. Richman
SCOTT B. RICHMAN, ESQ.
Mr. Richman is the Managing Member and Founder of Richman Law Firm PLLC. In his role as Managing Member, Mr. Richman oversees the day-to-day operations of the firm and handles the litigation of the most complex legal matters across a vast array of practice areas and disciplines.