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Do I need to worry about both the State and the Federal accessibility regulations?
The state adopts and mandates compliance with the California Building Codes, which incorporate the accessibility requirements. State accessibility codes are not always the same as the federal ADA regulations. In new construction, local jurisdictions only enforce the state accessibility codes. Your local city or county is not vested with the authority to enforce federal ADA regulations. However federal law mandates you comply with the federal ADA. The responsibility for compliance lies ultimately with the owner and the architect overseeing the project. This is why California created Certified Access Specialist (CASp) professionals, to assist people in complying fully with all of the confusing, and sometimes conflicting, accessibility laws, regulations and standards.
Should I really be concerned about Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance?
Any business that deals with the public, whether the premises are owned or leased, is responsible for ADA compliance. This means that most buildings, regardless of when they were built, are probably not up to current accessibility standards. Older buildings don't typically keep up with changing ADA standards. Newer buildings, even though the project has gone through the local building department, will still often have items that are non-compliant.
The ADA places the legal obligation to remove barriers or provide auxiliary aids and services on both the landlord and the tenant. The landlord and the tenant may decide by lease who will actually make the changes and provide the aids and services, but both remain legally responsible.
My building was recently completed or remodeled and was inspected by the city/county
Although a building may have passed a local building inspection, the inspectors are only enforcing the local adopted laws which may not include all of the ADA laws, leaving the business owner vulnerable to a costly lawsuit for being in violation of Federal ADA laws. Building inspectors have so many different things to inspect, and only so much time each day to make those inspections, that violations may be missed. The vast majority of building inspectors are not CASp certified inspectors.
As a business owner, what do I need to do?
In the business world, it is always best to be proactive. If you own a business that serves the public, call ProCASp Accessibility Consultants today so that we can advise you on the best course of action to take. The solution is to get a CASp evaluation and written report before being sued. After a summons has been served for an ADA lawsuit, without an evaluation and written report, you lose the special legal benefits of SB 1608 and will incur legal costs to defend yourself in a lawsuit, not to mention the cost of losing or settling a suit.
What happens if I don't make my property compliant?
By being inaccessible to people with disabilities, every day you leave yourself vulnerable to potential ADA lawsuits. Everyone has heard about the serial litigants that sue hundreds of small businesses for non-compliance. Many of these lawsuits are settled for thousands of dollars, PLUS legal fees and the time and stress of dealing with the lawsuit.
In addition, your business is losing potential sales! Approximately 20% of the US population has a disability. This staggering number is only going to grow as the population grows older. In these tough economic times, why would any business want to exclude potential customers? These disabled customers have great purchasing power as the affluent baby boomer generation approaches retirement age. Don't forget... the disabled community spreads the word on disability friendly businesses!
What should I do now?
Contact ProCASp Accessibility Consultants to discuss the best course of action to take to manage your risk. We will advise you of what's needed, and quickly get a written estimate to you. Our pricing depends on your location and type of business, and the services requested. Call us for your free estimate.
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