Uncommon barriers and why it costs you nothing to pay attention.

The list of barriers that professional ADA activists look for is growing, and guess what? There seems to be no shortage of properties out there that have barriers that really shouldn’t be there.

Over the last six months, I have been conducting an unofficial survey of uncommon barriers that continue to be the “fly in the ointment” for so many commercial property owners/managers and business owners … more on that in a minute.

First, let me give you a up-close-and-personal look at what happens when you fail to keep your property ADA compliant.

Last week, I inspected a large retail shopping center in San Jose that was built and first occupied in 1992. This property owner had been served with an ADA lawsuit claiming that the entire property is non-compliant yet the plaintiff gave no specifics.

When I arrived on site I was surprised to find that this plaintiff wasn’t so wrong …

This property provided fifteen different disabled parking stall locations evenly dispersed among the tenant spaces and did provide the correct ratio of disabled stalls but that is about the only thing that was correct.

Every disabled parking stall area exhibited:

  • Original concrete built-up ramps that encroached into the loading zone and out into both parking stalls on either side.
  • Most ramps exceeded 8.3% run slope
  • Wings exceeded 10%
  • All ramps lacked truncated domes
  • Disabled parking stalls striped at 15’ in length instead of 18’
  • All disabled parking signage was original and lacked the required $250 Minimum Fine sign
  • Most disabled parking areas exhibited surface slope greater than 2%
  • Parking stall signs mounted on poles with signs between 67”-78” above ground surface instead of 80” minimum.

Out of forty-five tenant spaces, over half of the accessible tenant entry doors exhibited raised door thresholds or up to 1” gap between the threshold and the concrete landing.

The big question here is “how is this even possible”?  This shopping center has 20 restaurants sprinkled in and among other retail shops.

Am I to believe that over the last 23 years that none of these tenants have pulled a permit that would have triggered at least some of these areas to be corrected?

After talking with the owners’ attorney, I was informed that they agreed to a settlement amount with the plaintiff just north of $100,000! That does not include attorney fees and the cost to make all of these repairs over a much shorter period of time than if these areas had been repaired one-by-one over the last 20 years.

Even though what I found in San Jose is considered uncommon, it is a little concerning that we still find these items popping up on properties all over the country.

Here are some additional uncommon barriers found on too many commercial retail, office, light industrial and multi-family housing properties that the landlord should be looking for:

  • Entrance warning tow away signs and parking stall signs that still use the word “handicapped”
  • Entrance warning tow away signs that use the wording “may be towed” instead of “will be towed”
  • Main accessible entry doors that lack the required ISA symbol sign
  • Horizontal pull hardware on accessible entry doors that force users to pinch, grasp or twisting of the wrist
  • Accessible entry doors that lack a solid 10” kick plate along the bottom
  • Van accessible stall sets with the loading zone on the driver side of stall
  • Van Accessible parking signage provided at disabled stalls with a 5’ standard crosshatched loading zone
  • Disabled parking stall and loading zone provided with absolutely no curb ramp access anywhere near the loading zone
  • Wheelchair paths of travel that cross over steep valley gutters before accessing a curb ramp or walkway
  • Accessible wheelchair path of travel signage provided at the bottom of a set of stairs.

These are all considered very simple barriers to remove in most cases, so why is it that we still see these barriers around our communities?

If you happen to be a landlord or property management company that has been sued over items such as these and you paid dearly, you’re not alone!

It’s one thing to have codes changing every three years and our level of access within the common area becomes outdated, and it’s quite another thing to have your own tenants constantly inserting barriers into your property without a thought in the world.

Some tenants even complain when you ask them to relocate or remove products from the common walkway outside their space because it is blocking the path of travel.

Here are some uncommon barriers that tenants inadvertently insert that definitely get noticed by most disabled customers and activists.

  • Main accessible tenant entry door lacks any strike side clearance for wheel chair maneuvering due to display racks or stacked product
  • Raised 1” decorative floor mats that do not allow for wheelchairs to roll over easily and slide effortlessly causing a trip hazard
  • Advertisement or flyers posted in their windows that have covered over required ISA symbol and EXIT sign inside their space
  • Raised sales counter above 34” with sale products stacked high that block the use by disabled customers
  • Interior aisles reduced below 36” wide due to improper shelving rack placement or vendors adding product that encroaches into the access aisle
  • Stacking cleaning products inside the accessible restrooms or under the Hi-low drinking fountains thinking that’s a good spot for that stuff
  • Accessible door signage removed and custom decorative signs installed that do not provide raised tactile letters, braille and a glossy finish making it difficult to read.
  • Grab bars missing or improperly installed in accessible restrooms
  • Water drain and supply lines improperly insulated under the sink or lavatories
  • Point of sale machine mounted higher than 48” above floor surface or placed behind the counter forcing disabled customer to allow cashier to enter pin number

These are just a few uncommon barriers that I encounter through performing inspections that most of us never think about.

Believe me, there are more disabled customers coming onto our properties and into our stores that do notice these things. For most, it is merely an inconvenience and for others, it’s a pay day!

Remember, look closely at the exterior areas of your property more often, and take time to talk with your tenants. Educate them and tell them it really is the small things that can get you both in a lot of hot water if you’re not careful.

If you have any questions concerning potential issues on YOUR property, please contact me directly.



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