The following content is an excerpt from the original U.S. Department of Justice Document ADA Update: A Primer for Small Business:
The Department of Justice has revised its regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This rule took effect on March 15, 2011, and clarifies issues that have arisen over the past 20 years, and contains new requirements, including the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design (2010 Standards). This document provides guidance to assist small business owners in understanding how this new regulation applies to them.
More than 50 million Americans – 18% of our population – have disabilities, and each is a potential customer. People with disabilities are living more independently and participating more actively in their communities. They and their families want to patronize businesses that welcome customers with disabilities. In addition, approximately 71.5 million baby boomers will be over age 65 by the year 2030 and will be demanding products, services, and environments that meet their age-related physical needs. Studies show that once people with disabilities find a business where they can shop or get services in an accessible manner, they become repeat customers.
People with disabilities have too often been excluded from everyday activities: shopping at a corner store, going to a neighborhood restaurant or movie with family and friends, or using the swimming pool at a hotel on the family vacation. The ADA is a Federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and opens doors for full participation in all aspects of everyday life. This publication provides general guidance to help business owners understand how to comply with the Department’s revised ADA regulations and the 2010 Standards, its design standards for accessible buildings. 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. Using this guidance, a small business owner or manager can ensure that it will not unintentionally exclude people with disabilities and will know when it needs to remove barriers in its existing facilities. If you are planning to build a new facility or alter an existing one, please see New Construction and Alterations for specific guidance on these types of projects. Businesses should consult the revised ADA regulations (Revised ADA regulations) and the 2010 Standards (2010 Standards, both provided by the U.S. Dept of Justice with revised extensions added in 2012) for more comprehensive information about specific requirements.
Who is Covered by the ADA?
Businesses that provide goods or services to the public are called “public accommodations” in the ADA. The ADA establishes requirements for 12 categories of public accommodations, which include stores, restaurants, bars, service establishments, theaters, hotels, recreational facilities, private museums and schools, doctors’ and dentists’ offices, shopping malls, and other businesses. Nearly all types of businesses that serve the public are included in the 12 categories, regardless of the size of the business or the age of their buildings. Businesses covered by the ADA are required to modify their business policies and procedures when necessary to serve customers with disabilities and take steps to communicate effectively with customers with disabilities. The ADA also requires businesses to remove architectural barriers in existing buildings and make sure that newly built or altered facilities are constructed to be accessible to individuals with disabilities. “Grandfather provisions” often found in local building codes do not exempt businesses from their obligations under the ADA.
Commercial facilities, such as office buildings, factories, warehouses, or other facilities that do not provide goods or services directly to the public are only subject to the ADA’s requirements for new construction and alterations.
Businesses need to know two important deadlines for compliance. Starting March 15, 2011, businesses must comply with the ADA’s general nondiscrimination requirements, including provisions related to policies and procedures and effective communication. The deadline for complying with the 2010 Standards, which detail the technical rules for building accessibility, is March 15, 2012. This delay in implementation was provided to allow businesses sufficient time to plan for implementing the new requirements for facilities. In addition, hotels, motels, and inns have until March 15, 2012, to update their reservation policies and systems to make them fully accessible to people with disabilities.
For additional details, see, ADA 2010 Revised Requirements: Effective Date/Compliance Date at the U.S. Dept of Justice.
New Construction and Alterations
The ADA requires that all new facilities built by public accommodations, including small businesses, must be accessible to and usable by people with disabilities. The 2010 Standards lay out accessibility design requirements for newly constructed and altered public accommodations and commercial facilities. Certain dates in the construction process determine which ADA standards – the 1991 Standards or the 2010 Standards – must be used.
If the last or final building permit application for a new construction or alterations project is certified before March 15, 2012, businesses may comply with either the 1991 or the 2010 Standards. In jurisdictions where certification of permit applications is not required, businesses can also choose between the 1991 or 2010 Standards if their jurisdiction receives their permit application by March 15, 2012. Businesses should refer to their local permitting process. Where no permits are required, businesses may comply with either the 1991 or 2010 Standards if physical construction starts before March 15, 2012. Start of physical construction or alterations does not mean the date of ceremonial ground breaking or the day demolition of an existing structure commences. In this situation, if physical construction starts after March 15, 2012, the business must use the 2010 Standards.
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 re-striping 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 re-roofing, painting, or wallpapering, is not an alteration.
Steps for Success
Being proactive is the best way to ensure ADA compliance. Evaluate access at your facility, train your staff on the ADA’s requirements, think about the ADA when planning an alteration or construction of a new facility, and, most importantly, use the free information resources available whenever you have a question.
Assessing Your Facility
The revised ADA regulations give businesses 18 months (until March 15, 2012) before they must comply with the 2010 Standards. The purpose of this phase-in period is to provide businesses sufficient time to plan and comply. Businesses are strongly encouraged to assess their facilities now to determine what architectural barriers exist. Until March 15, 2012, you have the choice of using the 1991 Standards or the 2010 Standards to remove architectural barriers, alter, or construct a new facility. Businesses that use the 1991 Standards during this phase-in period can take advantage of the safe harbor provision. Beginning March 15, 2012, only the 2010 Standards can be used.
A critical and often overlooked component of ensuring success is comprehensive and ongoing staff training. You may have established good policies, but if front line staff are not aware of them or do not know how to implement them, problems can arise. Businesses of all sizes should educate staff about the ADA’s requirements. Staff need to understand the requirements on modifying policies and practices, communicating with and assisting customers, and accepting calls placed through the relay system. Many local disability organizations, including Centers for Independent Living, conduct ADA training in their communities. The Department of Justice or the ADA National Network can provide local contact information for these organizations.
Tax Credit and Deduction
To assist small businesses to comply with the ADA, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Code includes a Disabled Access Credit (Section 44) for businesses with 30 or fewer full-time employees or with total revenues of $1 million or less in the previous tax year. Eligible expenses may include the cost of undertaking barrier removal and alterations to improve accessibility, providing sign-language interpreters, or making material available in accessible formats such as Braille, audiotape, or large print.
Section 190 of the IRS Code provides a tax deduction for businesses of all sizes for costs incurred in removing architectural barriers in existing facilities or alterations. The maximum deduction is $15,000 per year.
The Ultimate in Pool Care and the American Disabilities Act
As mentioned above, the Department of Justice passed new measures to ensure all pool patrons have access to public swimming pools. Most public swimming pools are now required to install chair lifts and/or ramps. With the new January 31, 2013 ADA-compliance deadline for swimming pools and spas now behind us, we urge swimming pool and spa managers to contact us to help make your facility fully compliant.
If you have further questions, please feel free to contact us at 631-242-2667 or your regional ADA office which may be found at the ADA National Network.
In the meantime, if you’re not one of our existing clients, please feel free to request a bid or a free estimate from The Ultimate in Pool Care on the many pool services and products we offer.