Last week at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design’s class titled ADA and Facility Access Compliance: An Advanced Interpretation and Application Workshop on Federal Accessibility Requirements, Irene Bowen shared some pretty alarming statistics and noteworthy news, including that Title III ADA lawsuits are up 63% this year over last year.
1. The number of ADA lawsuits filed in the first 6 months of 2016 exceeds the number of total ADA lawsuits in all of 2013.
2. It was also discussed that the Nevada Supreme Court case, citing Equal Rights Center v. Niles Bolton Associates that a client will have no recourse against the architect or contractor under the indemnity clause of their contract or for breach of contract if the ADA violation is brought about as part of an ADA lawsuit.
What does this mean for owners and for architects? For owners, it is a red flag that now is that time to address ADA concerns. With lawsuits increasing at unprecedented rates, owners are more at risk now than ever of facing ADA litigation. Here are some steps facility managers and business owners can take to protect themselves when building new facilities:
- Hire an architect who has a good understanding of ADA compliance to complete their work
- Hire an architect who specializes in ADA compliance to perform a post construction/pre-turnover inspection and certification to identify violations BEFORE they become the problem of the owner.
- Hire an architect who specializes in ADA compliance as an independent third party to perform an accessibility analysis and survey your new facility for compliance post construction and before accepting the final turnover to certify compliance BEFORE they become the owner’s problem.
- Keep records of your ADA compliance verification and decisions made during the design process
- Have regular ADA surveys conducted every few years to ensure new barriers have not been created
Architects should also take note of how this might affect their business. We would advise architects to collaborate with an ADA compliance specialist when designing new facilities.