Most publicly accessible properties, including stores, offices and shops, will be affected by the new federal regulations promulgated under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These new rules, which go into affect March 15, 2011, include both general rules that apply to private places of accommodation, as well as specialized rules which apply to specific facilities such as hotels and swimming pools.
For example, one in six parking spaces must be made van accessible, as opposed to the current regulation of one in eight parking spaces. The new rules also contain fewer exceptions regarding what types of business entrances must be made accessible to disabled persons.
Unfortunately the new rules could lead to an increase in lawsuits against businesses as a result of the vagueness of the rules. For example, although all new facilities must comply with the rules, existing businesses must comply if compliance is “readily achievable.” Businesses in violation of these new regulations could face lawsuits from persons with disabilities.
Businesses should start planning now for compliance with the new rules, and should carefully document the steps they are taking to comply.