Who needs an ADA consultant or an ADA Inspection?
The list is long. Building owners, building buyers, building tenants, handicapped people who need access to a building but are blocked by barriers, attorneys or building contractors working for the list above. Below I describe some sample scenarios the groups above may encounter.
- If you are a building owner and have not had your property inspected for ADA compliance, you could be the target of a significant lawsuit. Or, maybe you just want to do the right thing and make your building accessible for the handicapped. Or maybe one of your employees is handicapped and you want to make your building comfortable for that person. Or maybe you want to hire a person who is handicapped but your building does not have accessible features, and the person may decline your employment offer.
- Perhaps you are considering buying a commercial building but you wonder if the building is compliant with ADA Standards. If not, you may incur significant expense to bring the building in compliance. It may be possible to have the seller pay for those renovations that are necessary to comply with the ADA Standards.
- You are currently or are considering renting space in a commercial building. It would be wise to have the space inspected for ADA compliance before you sign a lease.
- Perhaps you are a handicapped person who is blocked from accessing a building by architectural barriers. In order to get the building owner to renovate the building to provide access, an third party ADA Inspection may by the service to “clear the air” on what the building owner needs to do.
- You are an attorney or contractor and your client is handicapped. An ADA Inspection of the building the client is associated with may help reach the desired outcome of your service.
What is ADA?
The ADA National Network offers the following explanation about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. The ADA gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. The ADA is a broad civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and guarantees equal opportunity for individuals in employment, state and local governments, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. It also applies to the United States Congress. The ADA does not apply to federal government agencies or the U.S. Postal Service. The ADA is divided into five titles (or sections) that relate to different areas of public life. The five titles are discussed below.
The ADA became law in 1990. In 2008, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) was signed into law and became effective on January 1, 2009. The ADAAA made a number of significant changes to the definition of disability. The changes in the definition of disability in the ADAAA apply to all titles of the ADA, including Title I (employment practices of private employers with 15 or more employees, state and local governments, employment agencies, labor unions, agents of the employer and joint management labor committees); Title II (programs and activities of state and local government entities); and Title III (private entities that are considered places of public accommodation). Effective March 15, 2012, the applicable standards for new construction and alterations for either a public entity under Title II or a place of public accommodation under Title III were revised wit the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. There are five titles in the ADA Standards.
Title I (Employment)
Equal Employment Opportunity for Individuals with Disabilities
This title is designed to help people with disabilities access the same employment opportunities and benefits available to people without disabilities. Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants or employees. A reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable an applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions.
This portion of the law is regulated and enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission . Employers with 15 or more employees must comply with this law. The regulations for Title I define disability, establish guidelines for the reasonable accommodation process, address medical examinations and inquiries, and define “direct threat” when there is significant risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the individual employee with a disability or others.
Title II (State and Local Government)
Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in State and Local Government Services
Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in all programs, activities, and services of public entities. It applies to all state and local governments, their departments and agencies, and any other instrumentalities or special purpose districts of state or local governments. It clarifies the requirements of section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, for public transportation systems that receive federal financial assistance, and extends coverage to all public entities that provide public transportation, whether or not they receive federal financial assistance. It establishes detailed standards for the operation of public transit systems, including commuter and intercity rail (e.g., AMTRAK).
This title outlines the administrative processes to be followed, including requirements for self-evaluation and planning; requirements for making reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures where necessary to avoid discrimination; architectural barriers to be identified; and the need for effective communication with people with hearing, vision and speech disabilities. This title is regulated and enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Title III (Public Accommodations)
Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability by Public Accommodations and in Commercial Facilities
This title prohibits private places of public accommodation from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. Examples of public accommodations include privately-owned, leased or operated facilities like hotels, restaurants, retail merchants, doctor’s offices, golf courses, private schools, day care centers, health clubs, sports stadiums, movie theaters, and so on. Not covered under Title III are: religious entitites even if the activity they are providing, such as a food distribution pantry, is open to the public; airlines; and private residential (apartments, condos, home owner associations).
This title sets the minimum standards for accessibility for alterations and new construction of facilities. It also requires public accommodations to remove barriers in existing buildings where it is easy to do so without much difficulty or expense. This title directs businesses to make "reasonable modifications" to their usual ways of doing things when serving people with disabilities. It also requires that they take steps necessary to communicate effectively with customers with vision, hearing, and speech disabilities. This title is regulated and enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Entrance Door Maneuvering Clearance
Title IV (Telecommunications)
This title requires telephone and Internet companies to provide a nationwide system of interstate and intrastate telecommunications relay services that allows individuals with hearing and speech disabilities to communicate over the telephone. This title also requires closed captioning of federally funded public service announcements. This title is regulated by the Federal Communication Commission.
Title V (Miscellaneous Provisions)
The final title contains a variety of provisions relating to the ADA as a whole, including its relationship to other laws, state immunity, its impact on insurance providers and benefits, prohibition against retaliation and coercion, illegal use of drugs, and attorney’s fees. This title also provides a list of certain conditions that are not to be considered as disabilities.