In the fast-moving world of retail and facilities management, compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) can seem like a wild goose chase. And who has time for that, right? But with our population’s increasing accessibility needs and a significant rise in ADA lawsuits, it’s an issue you can’t afford to ignore. Based on information we’ve uncovered in the field, here are five simple tips that can help you address some common accessibility concerns:
1. Check your doors.
Interior ADA compliant doors cannot take more than 5 pounds of force to open, but many people don’t realize this alters naturally when the weather changes. The grease viscosity changes the speed of the door opening and the power required to open it. We recommend checking this at least quarterly.
2. Maintain your accessible toilet rooms.
Just because it’s marked as “Accessible” does not mean it’s actually ADA compliant. Often, someone will buy an “Accessible Restroom” sign and stick it to the wall or door. When these are not actually ADA compliant rooms, the experience can be very frustrating to someone in need of an accessible restroom. Simple things to check for are:
• Door maneuvering clearance blocked by trash can – As long as the door opens 90 degrees, you can keep a trash can behind the door. But remember to use caution when you move it anywhere else around the door. You could be limiting the maneuvering space for someone in a wheelchair. (Refer to Section 603.2.3 and 404 of the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design.)
• Turn radius too small – When you enter the accessible toilet stall, is there room for a wheelchair to turn around? You can measure to make sure there is a clear space 60 inches in diameter or a T-shaped turn space within the toilet room. (Figure 304.3.2)
• Dispensers installed incorrectly – Often, when you buy in bulk from a paper company, they’ll provide you with new dispensers. When the new dispensers are installed, you must make sure they’re still ADA compliant. Usually, they’re not installed within one of the required reach heights. (Section 604.9.6, 308.2 and 308.3)
• Signage places incorrectly – There are rules as to where to put the sign so that it’s easy to identify for individuals with disabilities such as vision impairment. The general rule of thumb is that the sign should be p[laced alongside the door at the latch side. If the door swings in, you can place the sign on the push side of the door. (Figure 703.4.2). When it comes to toilet rooms, the ADA has a lot to say. Please see additional requirements for Toilet Rooms in Section 602 of the “2010 ADA Standards.”
3. Schedule barrier removals with your remodels.
The law requires that facilities have an accessibility plan, even if they aren’t currently fully compliant. To make these accessibility updates in a way that makes financial sense for your business, schedule accessibility updates as part of your already planned remodels.
4. Assess your risk
Prioritizing your barrier removals will help you understand what you need to plan for. Certain elements have more of a lawsuit risk than others – particularly accessible parking. Make sure your parking lots and accessible parking spaces won’t make you a target. (Section 208).
5. Train your staff
Facilities can go from compliant to non-compliant quickly when the staff inside doesn’t understand why things are placed where they are. Help them understand that you don’t move trash cans to block the opening swing of doors, and always keep accessible signs visible.
The ADA can be difficult to understand because of the many interpretations and phrasings that seem unclear. To make matters worse, you can think you are in “compliance” with the Standards, but still be in violation because you did not understand the intent of the law. Our recommendation is to always use this rule of thumb: If an individual without a disability can do something in your facility, you must make sure a person with a disability can have a similar experience in as independent a manner as possible.