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Sacramento Small Business ADA Compliance

July 11, 2012

Sacramento small business attorneys routinely provide consulting services to help various enterprises comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a comprehensive federal law designed to prevent discrimination against people with physical or mental impairments. The Act is intended to ensure that these people have reasonable access to the same activities and opportunities that an unimpaired person would enjoy.

In order to qualify as disabled under the ADA, a person's particular ailment must substantially limit one or more major life activities. These major life activities include, but may not be limited to, seeing, hearing, walking, working, learning, breathing, speaking, and others. This federal disability standard is not particularly stringent. As a result, a vast number of physical and mental impairments can qualify.

What this means for a small business owner is that, in a given day, someone with a federally-recognized disability will undoubtedly walk into your place of business. The customer may not need any special accommodation from your business in order to interact with your business. If this is the case, you as the business owner have been lucky, because the very next customer that walks in the door may need accommodation. Some accommodations are more difficult to provide than others. For instance, it may be relatively easy and inexpensive to provide a Braille menu at a restaurant, while it may be considerably harder and more expensive to install a wheelchair ramp.

The general standard for when an accommodation must be provided is as follows: Accommodations must be made: 1) if the accommodation would not create an undue burden on the business owner, and 2) if the change to business facilities is readily achievable. These phrases are interpreted on a case by case basis, but certain actions are typically viewed as readily achievable and not an undue burden on a business owner. One such action would include the removal of barriers in one's place of business so that a wheelchair or similar device could easily move about. Another might be the provision of a handicapped parking space near the primary entrance.

The law is deliberately vague to allow for a lot of latitude in what businesses should provide in terms of accommodation. The intent of the law is not to impose so many requirements that a typical business would lose its profitability in order to attain compliance. The intent of the law is to provide disabled people with enough accommodation that they are afforded reasonably similar opportunities. The trouble with ADA compliance is that doing too much can be costly, while not doing enough can be just as costly in terms of potential fines and lawsuits.

That's where a Sacramento business lawyer can be a valuable asset. Your attorney can help you determine, in light of your particular business model, what reasonable ADA accommodations should be made so as to avoid fines and liability. Using your Sacramento small business attorney as an ADA compliance consultant is almost always cheaper than fighting a lawsuit in court or cutting a check to the authorities. Take preventative measures to protect your business and to make sure everyone can enjoy your products or services.

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