How to avoid an ADA lawsuit – 5 tips that will help keep you out of court
Do you know the best way to avoid an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) lawsuit? You probably know the answer – have an ADA compliant place of business. That is easier said than done.
On one hand, you can say that business owners have it coming, since after nearly 27 years there really is no excuse for any business not to be compliant with the ADA. Also, ADA lawsuits that foster compliance with an important equal rights law like the ADA are essential in advancing the cause. Others believe that the serial litigators are doing more to extort money from damages than improve accessibility. Whether business owners believe ADA serial plaintiffs are crusaders or extortionists, ADA drive-by lawsuits aren’t likely to be a distant memory for some time.
After a flurry of 150 lawsuits filed in Denver federal court this year, Meeting the Challenge Inc. (MTC) has helped over 40 Colorado businesses respond to some of these lawsuits and develop a plan to improve accessibility. MTC has worked with these businesses to validate some of the ADA lawsuit claims, but more importantly, MTC has been able to refute many claims that were incorrect and found other overlooked issues of noncompliance that could lead to another lawsuit.
Here are 5 tips that will minimize the risk of an expensive lawsuit:
1. Start with parking.
A serial litigant doesn’t even have to get out of their car to observe most ADA parking violations. Make sure you have the correct number of accessible spaces with proper signage and compliant access aisles.
2. Have a route from accessible parking to your front door that is accessible.
The path of travel cannot have excessive slopes, steps, steep ramps, or changes in level over a half an inch, and must be at least 36 inches wide.
3.. Check your entries.
Your entry is covered by several complicated ADA Standards that govern clear width, maneuvering clearance, door surfaces, landings, and hardware to name a few. Having a compliant entry, along with accessible parking and paths of travel, will protect you from the dreaded drive-by lawsuit.
4. Measure the bathroom.
Public restrooms access issues are almost always cited in ADA lawsuits because restrooms have so many ADA requirements. Some of the most common restroom issues involve the height of coat hooks, paper towel and soap dispensers, mirrors, and toilet paper dispensers. Unwrapped pipes under sinks and misplaced grab bars are also frequently called out.
5. Ask a professional.
When you are uncertain about the accessibility of your business, enlist the help of a qualified ADA consultant. You might be surprised at how inexpensive an ADA survey is, and one thing’s certain; it’s cheaper than a lawsuit. MTC’s ADA assessments for a typical retail outlet, office, or restaurant range from $500 to $1,200, far less than court fees or paying an expensive lawyer. MTC can provide a practical and cost-efficient plan that will not only enable you to comply with the ADA, but also make your business a pleasant experience for everyone, including the one in six people with disabilities who have $175 billion in discretionary spending power. If you need to make changes to comply with the ADA, federal tax credits are available to small businesses in the amount of 50 percent for eligible access expenditures.
With a little time and a small investment, MTC can make your business accessible and simultaneously give you priceless peace of mind knowing that you’re safe from any ADA lawsuits that might come your way.