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So Sue Me (But Please Don’t)

Our law librarian offers resources for ADA compliance

Back Web Only Sep 4, 2014 By Coral Henning

I own a small women’s apparel boutique. The neighboring sandwich shop just was served with a federal lawsuit regarding ADA compliance. I am concerned I could be next. This building is very old. Is anything “grandfathered in”? What can I do to protect myself?

 

Being proactive is the best way to be ADA compliant. Local building codes that may have “grandfather provisions” do not exempt businesses from ADA compliance.

The first step is to evaluate your building’s access issues. In 2003 the State of California created a Voluntary Certified Access Specialist Program, which was designed to provide to the public tested and trained individuals who can inspect facilities and locations for state and federal accessibility.

The Certified Access Specialist (CAS) will come to your location and survey your site for barriers to access. The fee for a report varies based on the age of the building, the code it was constructed under and the jurisdiction. Having this report makes you eligible for a 90-day stay of a lawsuit and an “early evaluation conference” per California’s Civil Code 55.53, during which the plaintiff must display the merits of the case in court.

The report will either certify that you are in compliance with state and federal disability laws, or it will list deficiencies and the steps to obtain compliance. The owner or tenant who hired the CAS will then work with the assigned specialist to develop a timeline for removal of the “readily achievable” barriers.

The U.S. Department of Justice published ADA Update: A Primer for Small Business, which you may also find helpful. As an incentive, there may be IRS tax credits or tax deductions for removing architectural barriers in existing facilities.

Good luck.

 

Do you have a question for the County Law Librarian? Just email comstocks@saclaw.org

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