Do you run a home based business that requires clients or customers to access specific areas of your home on a regular basis? If so, you could be required to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and be subject to a civil rights lawsuit.
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Maybe you run a small day care facility from your home, provide tutoring services, or private music lessons on a regular basis. Under the ADA law, you are open to a civil rights lawsuit if the portion of your residence used specifically for the business is not “barrier free.” For the most part, this means getting someone from their mode of transportation to the entry point of your business area, and into your place of business by means of a barrier free pathway, but depending on the type of home based business you run will determine the level of compliance you are required to meet.
A Certified Accessibility Specialist can survey your home based business and provide you with a report which could ward off opportunistic civil attorneys.
Believe it or not, your business website is another category that falls under the ADA that most small business owners are unaware of. The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990, just before the Internet really took off. As the Internet became more prevalent, the U.S. government realized that the ADA should cover websites also. In 1996 the Department of Justice made the following statement:
“Covered entities under the ADA are required to provide effective communication, regardless of whether they generally communicate through print media, audio media, or computerized media such as the Internet. Covered entities that use the Internet for communications regarding their programs, goods, or services must be prepared to offer those communications through accessible means as well.”
Simply, if your business has 15 or more employees and has a website, steps must be taken to allow access to your website for persons with disabilities. Although most home-based business websites will not meet this criterion, a CASp can also assess your business website to ensure you are in compliance.
It is good business sense to protect your business from opportunistic civil rights lawsuits. It is better business sense to insure barrier free access to attract the large percentage of disabled persons in California to grow your business.
There have been many news stories lately regarding the issue of the Americans with Disabilities Act and how predatory attorneys are impacting local small businesses. Anytime a business is forced to close it is an unfortunate occurrence; however, all businesses with public access are simply required to comply with the ADA or be exposed to a civil rights lawsuit.
This is pretty much everyone with an “open” sign in their window.
Mikol Maitland is an award-winning Architect and Certified Accessibility Specialist (CASp) and lives in Placerville. He can be reached through is Website at caspsurvey.vpweb.com or Facebook at facebook/CASpSurvey.