According to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), businesses and governments are required to make accommodations for persons who have a legally-recognized disability. ADA accommodations violations generally involve some sort of failure to provide access and amenities in public places for persons with disabilities.
A failure to follow ADA accommodation requirements can lead to various penalties and can subject businesses to costly private lawsuits (especially if the violation has caused injury to a disabled person).
The ADA creates a positive duty for businesses to ensure that patrons have the proper accommodations with regards to disabilities. Some disabilities listed under the ADA include hearing or sight impairment, physical handicaps, and certain learning disabilities. The ADA also creates various requirements for employers with regard to disabilities, including anti-discrimination and hiring provisions.
Because there are many different types of disabilities and accommodations, there may be a wide range of ADA violations that are possible.
Some common examples of business ADA violations include:
- A failure to install a wheelchair accessible ramp where necessary;
- Failure to provide handicap parking spots in parking lots;
- Inadequate handicap restroom accommodations;
- Lack of handrails in walkways;
- Walkways that are too narrow or steep; or
- Problematic elevator or escalator systems
Also, some violations can involve accommodations that are already present or installed, but have not been maintained or are no longer safe. An example of this is where a wheelchair ramp is in such a state of disrepair that it is dangerous to use or no longer performs the function for which it was intended. Also, ADA requirements can change over time, so a failure to keep up with current requirements can also result in a violation.
As mentioned, the ADA creates an “affirmative duty” for business and restaurant owners to ensure compliance. This means that the business owner needs to take the initiative to ensure that persons with disabilities can access and use their facilities properly and safely. They should do this well before any incident or injury occurs, and should keep such accommodations well-maintained and safe to use.
Besides accommodations in business establishments, the ADA also focuses on providing disabled persons with access in “public” places. This includes areas and institutions such as:
- Restaurants, cafes, and other eateries;
- Retail stores and malls;
- Public parks;
- Restroom facilities;
- Movie theaters; and
- Work and offices buildings
Violations for public ADA requirements can result in various legal consequences. These can include citations, business license restrictions, fines, and injunctions requiring the business to remedy the conditions. Also, ADA accommodations violations can expose the business owner to lawsuits, in which they may have to pay personal injury damages to an injured plaintiff.
In many instances, a violation of ADA requirements can lead to accidents and serious injuries. These can happen if a certain accommodation is not present, or if an accommodation is dangerous or not working properly. If a person is injured in connection with an ADA violation, they may sue the business for damages.
An example of such an accident is where a wheelchair ramp needs repair and is in a dangerous condition. If a person uses the ramp and then falls and is injured, the business might be held liable for the injury and various costs associated with the accident. Such claims may be based on legal theories of law such as negligence.
Negligence requires a showing that the business owner had a duty of care, that they breached such duty, and that their breach directly caused the plaintiff’s injuries. The plaintiff must be able to quantify and measure their injuries in calculable damages.
In the example above, the business owner may have a duty to keep the wheelchair ramp in a safe condition. If they failed to do so, this might be considered a breach of that duty. If the breach directly caused measurable damages to a patron, they can be sued.
Damages in such a lawsuit might cover various expenses, including hospital bills, medical expenses, costs of surgery and rehabilitation, lost wages (if the person missed work for instance while recovering), pain and suffering, and other costs.
State laws may vary regarding the amount of damages that can be recovered in such a lawsuit. Some states may place a cap or other limitations on certain types of damages, such as those associated with pain and suffering.
ADA requirements and legal claims can sometimes be very complex, and may require the assistance of a lawyer. You may wish to hire an employment lawyer if you have any questions or concerns regarding the various ADA requirements in the workplace.
An attorney in your area can help assess your business to determine whether you are in compliance with state and local regulations. Also, your attorney can represent you in court if you need to attend a court hearing or file a lawsuit.
If you believe you were discriminated against by a business or public entity due to failure to comply with the ADA, then check with your local disability rights groups to see what remedies might be available to you.