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From the May 2001 Issue
Americans with Disabilities Act
by Rich Myers
Is your business compliant with regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? It's a topic many businesses ignore until they're hit with a costly lawsuit after someone is injured on their property or simply can't enter their establishment because of barriers. From a legal perspective, it's vitally important for business owners to understand that all businesses--even those in facilities built prior to 1990--are responsible for complying with ADA law. Business owners who are not ADA-compliant face potential litigation not only from injured parties, but also from groups that serve as compliance watchdogs.
Today, building or expanding any commercial facility without meeting ADA codes is illegal. However, many establishments constructed prior to 1990 have not made the necessary provisions to become ADA- compliant. Many business owners are afraid that the costs of bringing their businesses up to ADA code will be prohibitive, and with no "ADA police" looking for lawbreakers, they don't bother complying with the law. Many of these businesses will make the mistake of becoming ADA-compliant only after losing an expensive lawsuit.
ADA-compliance goes beyond constructing and maintaining your facilities, as a Las Vegas trolley company discovered when a wheelchair-bound man was injured on the Strip. While improperly assisting "Jack" into the trolley via the wheelchair lift, the trolley driver accidently caused Jack's wheelchair to shoot backward off the elevated lift onto the concrete sidewalk. Jack received a serious brain injury and later sued the trolley company. In this case, the company was only partially ADA-compliant. Simply providing access was not enough--employees involved with assuring access are required to be properly trained as well.
Businesses must also be on the lookout for employees ignoring the ADA. "Bobby" lived in an apartment complex that provided ADA-approved handicapped parking spaces. Unfortunately, the resident manager routinely parked in a handicapped space because it was the closest available spot to his apartment. The apartment complex was held liable for the manager's actions.
Getting Up to Code
In addition, being ADA-compliant is good business. Disabled people seek out and patronize businesses that make it safe and easy for them to use their facilities. Non-compliant businesses not only face litigation, but also forfeit potential revenue.
There are countless tragic stories about individuals who are injured due to a business's lack of ADA- compliance. Not only are disabled people unnecessarily injured, but businesses that could easily have become ADA-compliant face the tremendous costs of litigation and after-the-fact compliance with the law. Businesses that move to become ADA-compliant before a problem arises can find that increased business from disabled citizens more than offsets the costs of compliance. In short, ADA-compliance is good business, good corporate citizenship and most important, it's the law.
ADA Compliance Information Resources
Rich Myers, Esq., is a partner in the Las Vegas firm of Crockett & Myers, where he concentrates on cases related to personal injury and medical malpractice.