Myths and Misconceptions about the
Americans With Disabilities Act
The ADA only applies to businesses that have 15 or more employees
While Title I of the ADA, which covers employment issues related to People with Disabilities, does apply to businesses of 15 or more employees, Title III, which covers public accommodations, applies to all businesses regardless of their size, unless they are part of a religious organization. Any business that in whole or in part holds itself out to the public must comply with the ADA.
My building was built to code, that Covers ADA compliance too
The ADA is not a building code, nor does it require state and local building codes to cover ADA requirements to remove barriers to People with Disabilities. The ADA is a civil rights law which prohibits discrimination, in the form of the establishment of or the failure to remove barriers to access for People with Disabilities. It is each business’ job to ensure that their facilities and operations comply with the ADA to avoid discrimination against People with Disabilities. Even if a building was approved last week that does not mean that the businesses in it are ADA compliant or provide any protection by itself in an ADA claim.
Landlords are responsible to make the building ADA Compliant
While landlords are responsible for ADA compliance, their tenants are jointly responsible too, under Title III of the ADA. That means that, even if a lease says otherwise, both the landlord and the tenant can be sued and held responsible for establishing accommodations, removing barriers and paying the Plaintiff’s attorneys fees for bringing the claim.
A building is older or historic and is exempt
The ADA does not “grandfather” in old buildings. Rather buildings built or renovated after 1992 or 2010 have a higher building standard. Older publicly accessible places still must take reasonable action or steps to remove barriers and improve access for People with Disabilities. If changes can be reasonably made then a business should make them.
Once a business settles an ADA claim they cannot be sued again
An ADA lawsuit is based on a specific person(s) who encountered a violation(s) in a business at a particular date and time. Even with full settlement of that claim, other individuals could also sue for the same violations while the violations are or were not fixed. A business can also be liable for other violations of the ADA that were not covered by the prior claim (i.e. The first claim involved access to a restroom, the second claim could be for not providing adequate accommodations for a person with sight impairment). Additionally, the same individual could come back and sue again for subsequent violations, or even failure to fix the violations in the first suit.
The ADA only applies to wheelchair users
No. The ADA is a civil right to all People with Disabilities that requires the reasonable steps to remove all barriers to accessibility and allow People with Disabilities to access goods and services like any other consumer. It’s much broader than simply physical access to buildings. It requires businesses to make reasonable accommodations which can include changes to not only their buildings but their policies and procedures to allow for this participation. Businesses must also be as reasonably open to people with impaired sight, impaired hearing, or other disabilities in addition to people requiring wheelchairs.