How to Ensure Your Business is ADA Compliant
Meeting ADA standards is an unavoidable part of maintaining a commercial structure. Still, most business owners don't know what they need to do in order to be ADA compliant, or whether their structure meets ADA requirements as is.
There is no easy-to-follow manual, nor is there a cheat sheet that business owners can use to determine whether they're following all the requirements. Often, business owners find out that their building is non-compliant when they receive a complaint, or when they decide to remodel.
Achieving ADA compliance is very important. Lack of compliance can result in fines. It can also be bad for customer relations as well as employee relations. Overall, ADA compliance is good for business. Business owners who want to ensure that their company is doing the right thing for the people they serve should do what they can to ensure that they're following the ADA law.
What Is ADA Compliance?
ADA stands for Americans with Disabilities Act. ADA became law in 1990, and is a civil rights law that prevents discrimination against people who have disabilities. ADA affects much more than buildings and the way they're designed. In fact, ADA protects individuals in all areas of public life. Thanks to ADA, individuals with disabilities are given equal opportunities in the work place and in businesses where they purchase goods or services.
How Does ADA Compliance Affect Your Building?
ADA sets requirements for building accessibility. These requirements are in effect all around the United States, though many buildings have yet to be made fully ADA compliant. Buildings that were not compliant when ADA was passed in 1990 remained largely untouched until the day their owners chose to renovate, and then they were brought up to code. Often, it is this remodeling process that triggers the change to ADA compliance.
Bathrooms are the primary target of ADA change during renovations. Bathrooms must be made accessible to all people, including people with disabilities. Bathrooms accessible to individuals with disabilities must be found on all floors, and if the building is large enough, there must be enough bathrooms to accommodate a certain number of users.
ADA can affect your building in other ways, as well. Parking accessibility, lunch rooms and kitchens, entrances, signage, elevators and drinking fountains are all typical parts of the building that might be affected by ADA. Building owners often do not know all the ways that their building is not ADA compliant, and sometimes those ways can come as a surprise.
How Can You Ensure Your Business is ADA Compliant?
ADA language is available online, but the easiest way to start exploring ADA compliance for your commercial building is to contact an experienced and knowledgeable commercial contractor. Depending on the changes you'd like to make, your contractor may bring in a code specialist who can make recommendations and discuss compliance.
If you're exploring ADA compliance in the context of a renovation, changes made to comply with ADA can add to the cost of your project. Fortunately, compromises can often be reached that enable building owners to proceed with necessary renovations while making incremental changes to their facilities. As long as a minimum standard is reached, the renovation can proceed. Some industry professionals refer to these compromises as alternative compliance.
What Is Alternative Compliance?
Suppose you are a commercial property owner who would like to renovate one of the bathrooms in your building. Renovating that one bathroom could reveal ADA deficits throughout your building, uncovering ways in which your building does not provide enough ADA compliant bathrooms throughout your facility.
To keep the cost of renovation affordable, your contractor's code specialist may work with local building officials to devise a plan that will allow you to make your renovation, while addressing some of the ADA compliance problems that your building may be experiencing. It's rare for an entire building to be brought fully up to code in a single renovation. ADA's regulations are far-reaching, and many building owners are unable to address all ADA issues at once. The cost would be too great.
Can ADA Changes Be Postponed for Future Renovations?
ADA upgrades and building permits are closely tied. Typically, it's impossible to get a permit unless ADA upgrades are made. Your contractor and (if necessary) their code specialist will help you with this.
How Can You Find the Right Contractor?
ADA issues are a frequent part of commercial remodels, so it's important to work with a high-level commercial contractor in your area. Find the best contractor by interviewing experienced commercial contractors with a good reputation.
- Check references.
- Check the license to ensure your contractor has the proper credentials to do work in the state of your project.
- View their portfolio to see what projects they've worked on in the past.
- Consider awards and affiliations with organizations which would indicate the contractor meets a specific standard within the industry.
Because building officials often work closely with commercial contractors, some building officials may even acknowledge which contractors are most capable of handling these issues.
Address ADA Compliance Head-On
Addressing ADA issues is a necessary part of renovating commercial structures. Don't shy away from a renovation just because your building may not meet ADA requirements. Work with a design-build contractor with experience and understanding of ADA issues. Remember, meeting ADA minimum standards doesn't have to mean making budget-breaking changes to your building. Building owners renovating their facilities can find ways to bring their building into compliance without making renovations unrealistic.
Want to know more about ADA compliance as it relates to your commercial renovation in Connecticut? Download our Expert Guide to Commercial Remodeling so you can ensure you addressing all compliance protocols before you begin your new or remodeling project.
About Kevin Ahern
Kevin is the Co-Founder of Litchfield Builders, an award-winning, industry leader with a reputation for managing projects others shy away from. They are known for their high-quality work, customer service, and reliability and though still relatively small in size, Litchfield Builders now competes with some of the areas largest firms in both the residential and commercial arenas.