• Justin Hein

Businesses Must Become ADA Compliant

Businesses that provide goods or services to the public are called “public accommodations” and are required to meet the standards in the ADA. 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.

Who is Covered?

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.

What Must I Do?

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.

Why Must I Do it?

Well, it is the law. And becoming ADA compliant will offer you protection against lawsuits, abusive or otherwise. More importantly, it will also help you fulfill the ultimate goal of every business owner: providing the best possible service and experience for your customers.

More than 50 million Americans—18% of our population—have disabilities, and each is a potential customer. 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.

How Do I Get Started?

A good place to start for a business owner looking to become ADA compliant is the federal government’s Small Business Primer.  The Primer, which contains sections on General Nondiscrimination Requirements, Making the Built Environment Accessible, and Steps for Success can give business owners a good overview of their res under ADA.  Of particular importance are the 2010 standards, compliance with which became mandatory on March 15, 2012.  It is important for even formerly compliant business owners to be familiar with the new standards and ensure their continued compliance.

California business owners who desire more peace of mind regarding their ADA compliance can work with a Certified Access Specialist (CASp).  Established by the legislature in 2003 via Senate Bill 262, the CASp program certifies individuals who have met certain requirements established by the State Architect.  These individuals are then empowered to inspect sites and certify them as compliant. In the event of an ADA lawsuit, the business owner can then apply for a stay of the case using the CASp compliance certification.  This will trigger an early evaluation conference which could lead to a quick and easy resolution of the lawsuit.  A list of CASp’s can be found at the State Architect’s website.


Coming into ADA compliance can often be extremely costly and involve extensive and burdensome repairs and construction.  For this reason, we recommend beginning the journey to compliance as soon as possible.  By familiarizing themselves with ADA compliance standards or working with a CASp, business owners can develop a compliance plan which can spread the burden of coming into compliance over months or even years. 

The easiest, cheapest, and most vital repairs can be made immediately, with larger projects put off to a more convenient time.

No matter the actions of the state and federal government, it is sure that ADA compliance issues are going to continue to be a concern for business owners in the future.  For that reason, the savvy business owner will take the initiative, educate themselves, and take steps to voluntarily ensure their compliance.

More resources regarding ADA compliance can be found at the state’s Disability Access website.

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