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If a business provides goods and services to the public, it is required to remove barriers to access if doing so is readily achievable. Such a business is called a public accommodation because it serves the public. If a business is not open to the public but is only a place of employment like a warehouse, manufacturing facility or office building, then there is no requirement to remove barriers. Such a facility is called a commercial facility.
Examples include the simple ramping of a few steps, the installation of grab bars where only routine reinforcement of the wall is required, the lowering of telephones, and similar modest adjustments.
The ADA places the legal obligation to remove barriers or provide auxiliary aids and services on both the landlord and the tenant. The landlord and the tenant may decide by lease who will actually make the changes and provide the aids and services, but both remain legally responsible.
The ADA requires that all new construction of places of public accommodation, as well as of "commercial facilities" such as office buildings, be accessible. Elevators are generally not required in facilities under three stories or with fewer than 3,000 square feet per floor, unless the building is a shopping center or mall; the professional office of a health care provider; a terminal, depot, or other public transit station; or an airport passenger terminal.
When the first ADA standards were introduced in 1991, existing small businesses and some public buildings were allowed to avoid complying unless they added new construction or renovated their properties. In 2010, the updated regulations removed the “grandfather clause.” While you didn't have to instantly meet the 2010 standard, your property did have to meet the 1991 regulation.
This is the real problem facing your business and the courts. The revised standards include small stipulations for a wide range of access points such as parking lots, parking spaces, doors, elevators, ramps, hand rails, door knobs and work stations.
Only an expert in ADA compliance, such as an attorney, city inspector, or contractor will have a full understanding of the differences. It is often in the property owner's best interest to reach out for assistance from the ADA or city to bring everything up to date before any of these costly lawsuits have a chance to be filed, for compliance seems to be the only real defense in the current litigious atmosphere.
Federal tax incentives are available to encourage businesses to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These incentives support businesses as they remove architectural barriers and accommodate employees and/or customers with disabilities. Many states also offer similar tax incentives.
Unfortunately, many business owners and employers are unaware that these incentives exist. Make sure your business takes advantage of these valuable incentives!
Service animals are defined as dogs (and, as a modification, miniature horses) that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties.
More information on Service Animal are on the Rocky Mountain ADA Center website:
Rocky Mountain ADA Center
Snow Removal and Accessibility