The ADA requires companies providing goods and services to the public (public accommodations) to take certain limited steps to improve access to existing places of business. This includes the obligation to remove barriers from existing buildings.
Because removing these common barriers can be difficult and costly to remove, the regulations for the ADA provide a flexible approach to compliance. This practical approach requires that barriers be removed only when it is readily achievable to do so. Readily achievable means easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense.
Note: The ADA does not require existing buildings to meet the same accessibility standards as newly constructed facilities.
An effective approach to ADA compliance is to conduct a “self-evaluation” of the facility to identify existing barriers. While not required by the ADA, a serious effort at self-assessment and consultation can save resources by identifying the most efficient means of providing required access and can limit the threat of litigation.
The Department of Justice also recommends that all public accommodations develop an “implementation plan” designed to achieve compliance with the ADA’s barrier removal requirements. Such a plan, if appropriately designed and executed, could serve as evidence of a good faith effort to comply with the ADA’s barrier removal requirements.
In the ADA technical assistance manual (ADATA), The Department of Justice recommends the implementation plan to have priorities for removing barriers. These priorities are based on the most important aspects of access for the disabled community. Here are the priorities that the DOJ recommends:
- Enable individuals with disabilities to enter the facility. This priority on “getting through the door” recognizes that providing physical access to a facility from public sidewalks, public transportation, or parking is generally preferable to any alternative arrangements in terms of both business efficiency and the dignity of individuals with disabilities.
- Provide access to areas where goods and services are made available to the public.
- Provide access to restrooms (if restrooms are provided for use by customers for clients).
- Remove any remaining barriers