According to Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, public and commercial facilities must meet accessibility standards. It doesn’t matter if your building was constructed in 1950 or a few months ago—you’re not exempt from these standards, as long as it’s reasonable to meet them.
To achieve ADA compliance, you first need to understand what it means for your facility. Keep reading to learn more about ADA standards and the steps you need to take to avoid lawsuits and fines.
What Are ADA Standards?
The federal government enacted the first set of ADA standards in 1990, and Title III was updated again in 2010. This regulation states that public accommodations, such as hotels, educational facilities, restaurants, and stores, can’t discriminate against individuals with disabilities. Newly constructed buildings must meet specific standards that help individuals with disabilities access and use facilities without barriers.
A common misconception about ADA standards is that buildings constructed before 1990 are exempt from guidelines. In reality, if doing so is achievable, older buildings must remove any accessibility barriers. While the definition of “achievable” differs from one business to another, it generally means that the building owner will not have to pay a substantial amount or affect its operations to undergo accessible changes. For example, changing door handles may be achievable, but widening every doorway in a historic building may not be.
Essentially, ADA standards state that public facilities must:
- Remove existing barriers to accessibility, if possible
- Incorporate accessible features, like wide doors and ramps, into new commercial construction
- Add accessible features to additions or renovated spaces
Why Is ADA Compliance Important?
Complying with the ADA isn’t just important—it’s required. In addition to providing a safe and comfortable environment for all people inside your facilities, you won’t have to worry about penalties from the Department of Justice (DOJ). Your first ADA violation could cost you between $55,000 and $75,000, and additional fines cost a maximum of $150,000.
In addition to DOJ penalties, individuals with disabilities can sue your business for discrimination if you don’t have accessible ramps, doorways, or hallways in your building. The financial damage can be substantial—and that’s not considering reputational damage to your business.
Whether you think you might be noncompliant or you’re starting to think about a building renovation, it’s never a bad time to call in a contractor that understands ADA standards. They can tell you if you need to make immediate changes to your building and advise of any further modifications you might need during construction.
ADA Compliance Checklist
If you’re wondering what you need to do to comply with ADA standards, here’s a checklist to help you get started. You can find an exhaustive list of requirements in the ADA Title III policy documents or consult with an ADA compliance contractor to learn the exact standards that apply to your business.
Create Accessible Parking Spaces
One of the easiest ways to make your building more compliant is to create accessible and van-accessible parking spaces in the spots closest to your accessible entrance. The amount of accessible spots you need depends on the total number of spaces in your lot. You should mark accessible spots and include access aisles for vans. The route from accessible spaces to your building should be stable, relatively flat, and wide enough to accommodate wheelchair users safely.
Build an Accessible Entrance
Your building needs at least one accessible entrance according to ADA standards. If your accessible entrance is separate from the main entrance, it must be operable during the same hours as your main entrance and include clear signage.
Making your entrance accessible might require a ramp, lift, or widened doorway.
Need help making your building accessible from the outside? Airtight Construction offers ramps, asphalt leveling, and parking lot striping services for any facility.
Ensure Openings Meet ADA Door Clearances
Requirements for complying with ADA door clearance guidelines differ based on the door’s location and type. Generally, door openings must be at least 32 inches wide. You need at least 18 inches of maneuvering clearance if a hallway leads up to a door. Understanding your requirements before construction is crucial because certain doors may require additional accessible features.
Follow ADA Hallway Width Guidelines
If your building has an inside accessible route to get to your main service area, hallways must be at least 36 inches wide, and long hallways need a passing space of 60 by 60 inches.
Install Hardware That Meets ADA Door Handle Height Guidelines
Another inexpensive and relatively easy way to remove barriers from an existing building is to install new hardware. According to regulations, you must install ADA-compliant hardware between 34 and 48 inches from the ground. Additionally, individuals should be able to operate the door hardware with one hand without requiring tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist. If your door requires more than five pounds of opening force, it’s too heavy.
Understand Your Interior Guidelines
The requirements for your building’s interior will depend on the type of facility, its size, and the features inside. For example, if you run a grocery store, you’ll need to pay attention to aisle width. Restaurants need accessible tables and seating options. If you have public restrooms, at least one room or stall needs to be accessible with a wide entrance and plenty of clearance for an individual to maneuver around.
Turn to Airtight Construction for ADA-Compliant Construction in the Bay Area
Complying with ADA standards isn’t always easy, and it’s challenging to understand what your requirements are. If you need an expert to assess your space, point out potential violations, and complete ADA-compliant construction, choose Airtight Construction.
The ATC team has been creating accessible spaces for Bay Area residents since 2002 while keeping our impact on businesses to a minimum. Whether you need us to install new entrances with the proper ADA door clearance or re-pave your parking lot to include new van-accessible spaces, we have the tools and team to make it happen.
Get in touch today to learn more about our ADA-compliant construction services for your Bay Area business.