It’s difficult to engage in a discussion about the American Disabilities Act without sounding like I’m trying to use scare tactics, because there really are no ‘winners’ in an ADA compliancy court case. People deserve to have equal access to public spaces, no matter what. On a vertical counterpoint, businesses must comply with regulations in order to sufficiently serve the public as well as avoid legal liability. Each party, therefore, endures inconvenience on their respective side of a legal incident.
Between 2005 and 2013, over 16,500 ADA compliancy lawsuits were filed across the country. In July 2008 alone, 204 private ADA lawsuits were filed in the federal courts, according to a Lexis Nexis report. Then in 2009, the U.S. Department of Justice initiated an ADA compliance investigation of over 45 New York hotels, initiating cases where the courts could potentially award damages and civil penalties up to $110,000 for continued violations. Bear in mind: that figure does not include corrective measure costs or attorney’s fees.
Compliancy issues are prevalent on school campuses and in private business facilities, and are most frequently found in medical buildings, restaurants and hotels. No matter what industry you’re in, making yourself fully aware of regulations is an important step in your business, whether designing a new facility or updating an existing one. It’s also important to bear in mind that International Building Code (IBC) is substantially different from ADA requirements, which means that just because a building meets IBC, it doesn’t necessarily comply with the ADA. More importantly, once a complaint is filed, business owners may no longer have control over the correction process as it has the option to be controlled by the courts or the Department of Justice.
Incorporating ADA compliant products and designs into the overall integration of a new space is pivotal in the task of avoiding legal battlegrounds. First and foremost, familiarize yourself with the ADA Standards, including the revisions made in 2010. You may opt to perform an ADA Evaluation of the facility, if one has not been previously performed. Check each specification and decide the level of output that must meet compliancy standards. In lower output scenarios, compliancy may be met with facility design additions such as restroom signs with Braille lettering, or hand rails in public lavatories. Compliancy code section 4.4.1 states that protruding objects, such as digital signage displays, that sit under 27” from the ground may not extend further than 4-inches from a wall:
4.4.1 General. Objects projecting from walls (for example, telephones) with their leading edges between 27 in and 80 in (685 mm and 2030 mm) above the finished floor shall protrude no more than 4 in (100 mm) into walks, halls, corridors, passageways, or aisles. Objects mounted with their leading edges at or below 27 in (685 mm) above the finished floor may protrude any amount. Free-standing objects mounted on posts or pylons may overhang 12 in (305 mm) maximum from 27 in to 80 in (685 mm to 2030 mm) above the ground or finished floor. Protruding objects shall not reduce the clear width of an accessible route or maneuvering space.
Measures like these call for ADA compliant mounting systems (like Premier Mounts’ LMVS) to work with equally compliant slim line video wall displays for insurance that code measures are met. Auditory compliancy regulations through the ADA require that accommodations are made for people with hearing disabilities, as found in a 2008 ruling that the Washington Redskins’ FedEx Field was required to ensure effective communication with the hearing-impaired by providing assistive listening systems. Regulations like these will surely branch out to other professional leagues and stadiums as the ADA further extends its protection.
Rather than creating corporate fear of the American Disabilities Act by discussing the post-issue consequences, I propose that we see the ADA as a vision of opportunity. These compliancy measures set the standard for not only the prevention of legal liability, but a nationwide standard that ensures all visitors and customers have equal access to the products and services that we’re all so proud to share.
- “ADA Non-Compliance: Can You Afford It?” July 2009. Docsoft.com website. http://www.docsoft.com/resources/Studies/Whitepapers/ComplianceROI.pdf.
- Butler, Jim and the Global Hospitality Group. January 30, 2009. “Finally! Relief from abusive ADA litigation in California? Maybe not…” JMBM Global Hospitality Group website. http://hotellaw.jmbm.com/finally_relief_from_abusive_ada.html.
- “Information and Technical Assistance on the Americans with Disabilities Act.” ADA Standards for Accessible Design. ADA.gov website. http://www.ada.gov/2010ADAstandards_index.htm.
- Stein, Joan. January 2009. “Avoiding ADA Lawsuits.” Facilitiesnet website. http://www.facilitiesnet.com/ada/article/Avoiding-ADA-Lawsuits–10433#.