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Facility and building accessibility for businesses and nonprofits

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to businesses and nonprofits who provide goods or services to the public. The law requires their buildings and facilities be accessible and usable by people with disabilities.

Buildings are structures with walls and floors. Facilities are places like parking lots, parks, and recreation areas. We often use the word facilities to mean both buildings and facilities.

ADA standards and regulations

The ADA Standards for Accessible Design (ADA Standards) apply to Title III facilities. The accessibility requirements for Title III facilities will depend on the year it was built, as well as the dates that parts of the facilities are changed or updated. 

You can also find more specific information in the Title III regulations.

Public accommodation

The ADA uses a term called public accommodation. Almost all businesses and nonprofits that serve the public are considered a public accommodation. It doesn’t matter how big you are or the age of your facilities. 

There are 12 types:

  • Stores
  • Shopping malls
  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • Service organizations
  • Theaters
  • Hotels
  • Recreational facilities
  • Private museums
  • Private schools
  • Doctors’ and dentists’ offices
  • Other businesses

Readily achievable barrier removal

If you are considered a public accommodation, you need to remove accessibility barriers if:

  • It can be done  somewhat easily
  • The cost is not too high

In the ADA, this is called readily achievable barrier removal.

The age of the building doesn’t matter, unless it is considered historic. Historic buildings have some exceptions to the accessibility requirements. 

The requirement for readily achievable barrier removal has existed since the ADA began in 1990 and it still applies today.

Examples

  • Adding a ramp to an entrance that has a small number of steps
  • Rearranging furniture such as tables and chairs or items such as vending machines and display racks
  • Making doors wider
  • Replacing door knobs with lever handles
  • Adding correctly installed grab bars next to and behind toilets
  • Moving walls between toilets in bathrooms to increase space for maneuvering a wheelchair
  • Removing thick carpets that make it hard to push a wheelchair

Priorities

The U.S. Department of Justice has 4 priorities for public accommodations. You should consider these when you decide what accessibility barriers to remove first. They are:

  1. Creating access from public sidewalks, parking, or public transportation

Examples:

  • Putting in accessible parking spaces
  • Installing an entrance ramp
  • Making an entrance door wider or easier to open

2. Making goods and services available to the public

Examples: 

  • Changing where display racks are placed
  • Adding an accessible sales or service counter
  • Using braille and raised character signage

3. Making public restrooms accessible

Examples:

  • Making toilets the correct height
  • Making toilet rooms or stalls big enough
  • Having lavatories you can pull forward under to use

4. Providing access to their other goods and services that a place of public accommodation offers

Examples:

  • Service counters that are at an accessible height
  • Placing goods for sale where they can be reached

Questions to ask

If it’s not easy to remove an accessibility barrier, you do not have to. What makes sense for one organization might not make sense for another. In making your decisions, you should consider:

  • What is the cost?
  • What are your financial resources?
  • How many people work for you and what do they do?
  • How does the barrier removal affect your expenses and operations?
  • How many facilities do you have?
  • Are you a part of a larger business or nonprofit organization?

Commercial facilities

If your business is not open to the public but it is a place of employment, you are not required to remove accessibility barriers. You still need to comply with the ADA Standards for Accessible Design.

Examples of commercial facilities are places like a warehouse, manufacturing facility, or an office building.

Ask us

If you have questions about facility accessibility, we can help.

 

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