In the world of ADA compliance, facility managers must deal with a lot more than simply ensuring building access. A plethora of policies, procedures, operational issues, governmental regulations and resulting compliance can — and often does — demand just as much attention.
The Federal ADA provides more than design and construction related standards. There are a host of new requirements for policies and procedures that affect all public accommodations. These include policies on the availability of accessible seating and ticketing policies, policies on reservations for accessible guest rooms in transient lodging, policies on the use of service animals, and policies on the use of wheelchairs and other power-driven mobility devices.
These new rules went into effective on March 15, 2012. Facility managers should do two important things first:
- If the facility is an assembly area, such as sports, entertainment or performance venue, review existing policies and procedures for the availability, dispersal and sale of wheelchair seating. If your firm does not current have procedures, now is a great time to develop a plan.
- Facility managers at all public accommodations, including retail, commercial office buildings and light industrial facilities need to review or develop policies on service animals, power-driven mobility devices and effective communications.
Having thorough policies and procedures and communicating them to employees is critical. We could remove every physical barrier from our properties, but if someone with a disability is not treated appropriately by security, a receptionist or a salesperson, you could wind up talking to a federal judge or the Justice Department.
Let’s not forget that the ADA is a complaint-driven law, and it’s not going away. Also, keep in mind that people with disabilities represent the largest and fastest growing minority group in the United States and has the greatest spending power. So, let’s not ignore our disabled customers and risk a lawsuit or bad publicity.
Be proactive with your ADA compliance efforts and maximize your return on investment.
A short check-list for Facility Managers:
- Confirm the level of access on all their facilities to ensure compliance with the appropriate ADA and state accessibility standards.
- Review your state access standards and the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, which can be downloaded from the DOJ website at ada.gov.
- Don’t assume that complying with your state building code alone will cover you for ADA compliance.
- If you have done any renovations or new construction, make sure you’ve completed a thorough ADA evaluation of your facility. If you haven’t, do it now. The requirement for “readily-achievable barrier removal” started on Jan. 26, 1992, and it hasn’t gone away.
Communicate with others in your organization that may have responsibilities for security, sales or operations to review (or develop) accessibility policies and procedures. Communicating properly with our disabled customers is a must.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss this in more detail, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly.