This is a primer on what property managers and owners, working with a Certified Access Specialist, can do to ensure access – and avoid costly fines.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been in place since the early 1990s. An update to that federal law in 2010, along with California’s more stringent rules enacted in 2008, make property and business owners particularly vulnerable to legal action and financial penalties if they are found to be out of compliance with the regulations.
A simple violation of “the California ADA” can cost $4000 to $6000, with the higher amount charged if the case goes uncontested. Because there are attorneys who look to prosecute such cases, conservative estimates place the statewide costs to businesses at $20 million each year for noncompliance.
Those violations might be for improper striping in a parking lot, or failure to provide sufficient width to a designated special needs van parking space. Even signage for disabled drivers is part of an ADA compliant parking lot.
The smartest action for a property owner is to proactively come into compliance before there is litigation. This is why a certified access specialist, otherwise known as a CASp, should be engaged. In fact, Senate Bill 1608 provides such inspections with the teeth to protect against unwarranted ADA litigation, insure compliance with regulations, identify issues that can be remedied easily (the “lowest hanging fruit”), and most importantly, ensure that a business is accessible to all customers, regardless of their abilities and disabilities.
What a CASp does
With commercial properties such as apartments, condos, retail malls, hospitals and schools, a certified access specialist works hand-in-hand with a local asphalt and paving company. Any top-notch company provides commercial ADA compliance services and has a CASp on their team.
As a certified inspector, a CASp inspects the property – walkways, parking areas, ramps, doors, etc. – to ensure access to anyone with disabilities such as those affecting their hearing, vision, breathing, mobility, speech, cognition, cardiac conditions, emotions, and immunological capabilities (this is a partial list).
The process begins with a site inspection, followed by a written evaluation report. Where upgrades are required, the CASp will draw up plans, complete survey forms (as required to be provided to building tenants), obtain necessary permits, and oversee construction improvements.
Importantly, tax credits worth up to $5,000 are available for small businesses that incur accessibility expenses, as well as up to a $15,000 tax deduction for accessibility expenses that are normally capitalized.
For property owners that lease space, the CASp inspection report needs to be provided to new tenants prior to the signing of a lease. This serves as a protection to commercial lessors who might otherwise be subject to ADA violation litigation.
Your business benefits from ADA compliance
While the hiring of a CASp inspector might seem to be an added, regulatory-driven expense, it helps to understand the benefits and spirit of the law. While there is no universally accepted definition of disability, according to the ADA National Network (a statistical gathering agency under the Department of Health and Human Services), 18.9 million people make up the 10.5% of non-institutionalized working age (21-64) people in the US who identify as having a disability. That not only constitutes a large number of customers and clients, it also includes potentially valuable employees.
Some organizations place those numbers even higher. What enterprise wants to refuse people living with disabilities, or reduce their choices from the labor pool? An inspection and compliance with the regulations is smart business.