ADA+: Making our communities truly accessible

If your business or property serves the community, you might need an ADA+ Accessibility audit.

What the heck does that mean?

In order to keep you reading I am not going to enlighten you with all the nitty gritty, you can dig in deeper here: https://adata.org/learn-about-ada

But essentially, there are several components of the American’s with Disabilities Act that mandate accessibility features in our built environments within our communities to ensure all members of our communities have equitable opportunities to participate in activities and services.  

Title III of the ADA focuses on public community based spaces to help ensure the greatest access possible for all members of our community, but especially those experiencing disability. It details regulations on features that ensure your business property and services are accessible through basic features such as parking, entrance, bathrooms, service counters and other commonly accessed environments when doing business.  

Addressing accessibility of your building includes accessible parking which considers the number and type of spaces, as well as their dimensions, location, signage and how they connect to the accessible route into the building. Other considerations are wayfinding and signage on the property, conditions of sidewalks and ramps, door hardware and actuators to allow easy entrance to the building.

To see an example of what could be possible in a restaurant setting see: https://branchpattern.com/dine-able-restaurants/

Sketch 1: Dine-able Restaurant. Adaptation of Denny’s prototype floorplan with usability features. The entry provides space for maneuvering, convenient door operator push-button locations, and storage space for mobility equipment. Wayfinding helps occupants find their destination. A quiet seating area is created which could have privacy features such as curtains. The non-gendered restroom suite provides privacy for patrons and incentivizes hand-washing.

The application of some of these regulations may depend on when your building was built or when it was last renovated – or even when you last restriped the parking lot.  However, our communities and economies are strongest when barriers are removed to ensure the greatest level of accessibility for all persons. 

Okay, so what is an ADA+ audit and why would it benefit you?

  1. You are buying a new building 

If your building is going to serve the public in any way, you want to be sure that your building property (exterior and entrance) and all services meet current accessibility standards. Doing an accessibility review will help identify any accessibility deficits and help you in negotiating your sale price so that you can budget and plan to make the upgrades, or require them to be completed prior to purchase.

  1. You are a Commercial Real Estate agent

Your sole goal is helping your client purchase or lease a building space to provide services to the community.  Your client needs to be assured their new building is fully ADA compliant and accessible to the customers they will serve.  Completing an ADA audit prior to purchase/lease is a negotiating tool and provides confidence in the sale. Accessibility of their business impacts their customer segments, business growth and protects them from potential litigation.  

  1. You are in litigation or have concerns about access to your space and services that could result in litigation

“I’ve been sued” are words no business owner wants to say, but the reality in Omaha and surrounding communities is that businesses are more frequently being named in lawsuits related to ADA violations.  Nebraska does not currently have protections in place for business owners that require a patron to provide notice of actual or perceived ADA violations that offer them the opportunity to correct barriers before a lawsuit can be filed.  

Since 2018 a flurry of public accessibility lawsuits have been filed against businesses in Omaha and Lincoln communities.  When this step is taken the burden falls on the business to prove their spaces are compliant. In many cases the violations are related to accessible parking and accessible routes into the businesses. Resolving these lawsuits often means a large litigation fee, settlement payment AND the cost to correct the violations.  

If you have been sued, an ADA audit serves as evidence of actual violations (versus perceived) and outlines a plan to remedy.  A proactive ADA+ audit allows you to remedy any barriers prior to lawsuit being filed, and is a much more cost effective alternative to a reactive audit.  In either situation, having a complete picture of the accessibility of your property is of value. 

In August of 2018 the Omaha World Herald reported on this increase in lawsuits, and the number of lawsuits has continued to increase: https://www.omaha.com/livewellnebraska/omahans-file-lawsuits-against-businesses-citing-discrimination-of-people-with/article_b40652ad-3741-5809-8d4a-3ac0151a71d1.html

  1. Planning renovations or build out of your property/building

You are making changes, so make sure they are right!  An ADA+ audit as part of your renovation or build-out plans ensures that you correct any accessibility barriers that exist and make design choices that optimize access and meet all ADA accessibility requirements so that your new space serves the greater population and ensures you the broadest customer base possible. 

The #1 answer I would love to hear every time I ask this question: you want you ensure your business space and services are the most usable by all members of our community.

To read more about the business and economic impact of greater disability inclusion I recommend: Hidden Market Spending Power of People with Disabilities. https://www.air.org/system/files/downloads/report/Hidden-Market-Spending-Power-of-People-with-Disabilities-April-2018.pdf 

What does an ADA+ Accessibility audit entail?

An ADA+ Accessibility audit is a comprehensive review of your property in accordance with the appropriate ADA accessibility standards to assess its usability from the parking lot, into the building and accessing services within. It provides information on deficits and how to remedy any violations. 

How can Assistology help?

Assistology is your local resource to conduct both internal and external Title III ADA Accessibility audits. Upon completion client receives a comprehensive report of the results of the audit that includes any ADA accessibility deficits, suggested steps to remove identified barriers and additional recommendations for improved accessibility through the application of the Principles of Universal Design. 

While the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) created mandated accessibility standards to which our built environments must comply, many spaces continue to contain barriers to free access to spaces and services.  The combined cost of assessment, capital cost of improvements and avoidance of litigation is very cost effective contrasted with risk of injury, the unknown and the cost of litigation.

It is Assistology’s philosophy that compliance with the ADA Accessibility Standards is essential to improve access to our community spaces, and that these Standards provide a framework for increasing the accessibility in our built environments for all members on our communities.  Yet, we advocate that businesses also consider options for improvements that comply with the Principles of Universal Design to make their spaces most accessible and safe for all individuals. Universal Design is the design of buildings, products or environments to make them accessible to all people, regardless of age, disability or other factors. 

As such, Assistology also provides additional recommendations to further increase accessibility beyond the framework created by the ADA Standards. 

Additionally, if you are looking to build a new building Assistology is a key partner in your programming and design processes to ensure accessibility and universal design are part of the conversation from the start.  This reduces cost for retro-fitting and ensure that your business is best prepared to serve all members of the community from the start. 

Did you know that accessibility building codes and ADA accessibility standards do not always 100% align? In order to ensure optimal accessibility and compliance requires an expert on your team solely focused on the accessibility of your building and services. 

https://assistologyomaha.com/for-businesses/

Contact Assistology today to learn more. 

assistologyomaha@gmail.com

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