ACCESSIBILITY RULES FOR COUNTERS IN CALIFORNIA: WHAT EVERY BUSINESS SHOULD KNOW

Accessibility Rules for Counters What Every Business Should Know

Compliance with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the California Building Code (CBC) requires that businesses not only make facilities accessible from the exterior, but that they ensure that interior spaces are accessible to disabled persons. This requires creating spaces to facilitate the exchange of goods and money, and to allow disabled persons to maneuver about to purchase goods and services offered by the business. According to the ADA, sales and service countersmust be made accessible when doing so is readily achievable. The rules for counter accessibility for sales and service counters are more fully described in the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. Note that California has more stringent rules when it comes to counters.

Counter height. For transaction counters that provide sales or services such as ticketing transaction counters or hotel and motel registration, some portion of the counter should be at least 36 inches long and no more than 36 inches above the floor. The CBC requires counters to be 34 inches maximum above the finished floor. At this height, the counter is accessible for disabled persons to complete transactions. As an alternative, a business may in some circumstances provide a second counter in the same area or make a folding shelf available.

Accessible space near service counters.  Sales and service counters must be situated with sufficient floor space to allow a customer using a wheelchair to access the counter. The floor area must be clear of obstacles and measure at least 30 inches by 48 inches. The space may be parallel or perpendicular to the counter. The accessible space should be located on an accessible route which connects to the accessible entrance through which customers enter the facility. The area should also be accessible to the other sections in the store where merchandise is sold. As a general rule, interior routes must be 36 inches minimum in width with some aisles required to be 44 inches wide.

Checkout aisles.  Checkout aisles in supermarkets and similar businesses have specific standards for accessibility for customers using a wheelchair. The counter in a check-out aisle cannot exceed 38 inches in height above the finish floor. The maximum height extends to 40 inches if there is a lip between the counter and checkout aisle. An accessible checkout aisle is required to be a minimum of 36 inches wide. An accessible aisle should be identified by a sign that includes the international symbol of accessibility.  In determining how many accessible aisles a business must establish, it must take into account how many total aisles exist in the facility. At least two accessible aisles should be provided if the business has more than five checkout aisles.

If you have questions or concerns about whether your business is in compliance with the ADA and the California Building Code, contact California ADA attorney and certified accessibility specialist (CASp) Cris Vaughan for assistance. To discuss your concerns, please call 310.426.2836 in Los Angeles, 415.492.2854 in San Francisco Bay Area and 916.660.9401 in Sacramento.

UNDERSTANDING THE SAFE HARBOR FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

Understanding the Safe Harbor for Small Businesses

The 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design (2010 ADAS) became effective March 15, 2012. The 2010 ADAS revised some of the provisions contained in the 1991 Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) and regulated for the first time a number of new areas including many outdoor activity areas not covered by the ADAAG. The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) issued guidance for business owners to help them understand and comply with new regulations.

The 2010 ADAS includes a “safe harbor” provision. It is important to understand there is no safe harbor available if your property was not in compliance with ADAAG or if the 2010 ADAS regulated a specific subject for the first time. Many outdoor activity areas were regulated for the first time by the 2010 ADAS and there is no safe harbor available for those areas.

In its simplest form, the safe harbor provision means that if your property was in compliance with the ADAAG and the 2010 ADAS change the compliance requirement, no alteration is required. Several examples below illustrate how the safe harbor provision applies.

  • Number of van accessible spaces. The 2010 ADAS requires one van accessible space for every six accessible spaces. ADAAG required only one van accessible space for every eight accessible spaces. If your business met the one van accessible space for every eight accessible spaces under ADAAG, no alteration is required. The one van space for every eight accessible spaces configuration could remain until the parking lot was restriped. Upon restriping, which is considered an alteration, compliance with the one for every six configuration would be required.

  • Dispenser heights. ADAAG permitted product dispensers to be as high as 54 inches above the floor if a parallel approach permits a side reach instead of a forward reach. The 2010 ADAS limits maximum reach range to 48 inches above the finish surface. For businesses with dispensers at 54 inches above the surface, safe harbor permits them to remain as long as a parallel approach is provided.

 

  • ATM keys. A business with ATMs that conform to the ADAAG requirements is not required to modify the ATM to meet the requirements of the 2010 ADAS.

It is important to note that the safe harbor rules apply only if the business has not made modifications to the particular component since March 15, 2012.

If you have questions or concerns about whether your business is in compliance with the ADA and the California Building Code, contact California ADA attorney and certified accessibility specialist (CASp) Cris Vaughan for assistance. To discuss your concerns, please call 310.426.2836 in Los Angeles, 415.492.2854 in San Francisco Bay Area and 916.660.9401 in Sacramento.

ADA GUIDELINES FOR COMMUNICATION WITH CUSTOMERS

ADA Guidelines for Communication with Customers

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires covered entities to effectively communicate with individuals with disabilities. The purpose of these requirements is to guarantee that those with communication disabilities receive the same level of effective communication as non-disabled individuals. The ADA requirement for communication applies to both Title II entities (state and local governments) and Title III entities (businesses and non-profit organizations). A communication disability may include vision, hearing or speech disability which requires the individual to utilize an alternative method for communication.  How are covered entities required to ensure effective communication for those with related disabilities? Those covered by the ADA must provide:

  • Assistive devices to those with communication disabilities in order to facilitate communication. The ADA refers to these devices as “auxiliary aids and services”. The provision of auxiliary aids and services can refer to a variety of accommodations depending on the needs of the individual. For example, a deaf person must be offered the ability to communicate with the use of writing tools or sign language, or by providing a sign language interpreter or a note-taker.

  • Effective communication that adheres to these principles requires the covered entity to take into consideration the type and complexity of the communication and how that individual typically communicates. For example, in a retail context, the business might need to communicate via written or visual cues to assist a person who is deaf in deciding whether to purchase a product. In contrast, in a doctor’s office, an interpreter is usually necessary to accurately record the medical history of a deaf person.

  • An independent person to assist with communication and cannot rely on the use of another person (either an adult or minor) accompanying the disabled individual to act as an interpreter in most contexts. This rule does not apply if (i) in an emergency situation where the safety of an individual is an issue or (ii) the disabled individual requests that the accompanying adult act as an interpreter and such individual agrees provided the person assisting is not a minor.

If you have questions or concerns about whether your business is in compliance with the ADA and the California Building Code, contact California ADA attorney and certified accessibility specialist (CASp) Cris Vaughan for assistance. To discuss your concerns, please call 310.426.2836 in Los Angeles, 415.492.2854 in San Francisco Bay Area and 916.660.9401 in Sacramento.

EVALUATING COMPLIANCE WITH PARKING LOT REGULATIONS

Evaluating Compliance with Parking Lot Regulations

Every business owner should ensure that their parking facilities are in compliance with the regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the California Building Code (CBC) to avoid potential litigation. A business, government agency or other covered entity that restripesits parking lot must ensure that it provides accessible parking. Businesses are also required to remove barriers to access in existing parking lots in order to comply with their ADA obligations when it is feasible to do so. Restriping is relatively simple and inexpensive, and is therefore considered achievable in most circumstances.

  • Accessible parking spaces must be situated on the shortest route of travel to an accessible entrance to the facility. If the structure has multiple accessible entrances with parking in the vicinity, then the parking spaces should be dispersed throughout the parking area and located as close as possible to multiple entrances.
  • The width of van disabled parking spaces and standard double-parking spaces are measured centerline to centerline where parking spaces are delineated by lines. However, when such spaces and aisles are not adjacent to another parking space or accessible aisle, the width measurement can be made from the full width of the line.
  • The minimum length for disabled parking spaces is 216 inches long. The width of disabled parking spaces varies based on configuration.
  • Parking spaces must also have an adjacent access aisle (cross hatched area). Two parking spaces can have the same access aisle. Access aisles width varies based on configuration.
  • In California, access aisle perimeter boundary lines must be blue in color. The access aisle hatched lines are to be a maximum of 36 inches on center in white or blue. The words “NO PARKING” are to be within the access aisle in white letters that are at least 12 inches high and detectable from the adjacent path of vehicles.

If you have questions or concerns about whether your business is in compliance with the ADA and the California Building Code, contact California ADA attorney and certified accessibility specialist (CASp) Cris Vaughan for assistance. To discuss your concerns, please call 310.426.2836 in Los Angeles, 415.492.2854 in San Francisco Bay Area and 916.660.9401 in Sacramento.

BILLS INTRODUCED TO BATTLE SERIAL ADA FILERS

Bills Introduced to Battle Serial ADA Filers

In response to continuing claims of predatory lawsuits by frequent filers under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), various legislative measures have been introduced. These efforts seek to limit repeat serial plaintiffs and to provide businesses with a right to cure deficiencies prior to being subject to ADA suits. The architects of the legislation regard reform as necessary in light of the vast number of lawsuits filed by just a handful of plaintiffs in the state.

Extremely high-frequency litigantsAssembly Bill (AB) 913 in California is targeted at preventing “extremely high-frequency litigants” from proceeding with ADA claims without court approval. Under the legislation, the court would be required to enter an order preventing such a litigant from pursuing a filing without obtaining leave from a presiding judge where the litigation is to be filed. The judge would be required to confirm that the litigation is meritorious and has not been brought for a fraudulent purpose to permit a filing by an extremely high frequency litigant. The author of AB 913 believes that appointing judges as gatekeepers for ADA lawsuits will successfully minimize the recurrence of litigation by serial filers. In one report that served as the basis for the legislation, the California Commission on Disability Access found that 14 people brought 46% of all disability lawsuits in the state in 2014.

Cure periods. Unsuccessful legislation in the past has focused primarily on affording businesses with a “right to cure” period for deficiencies in their ADA compliance. House Resolution (H.R.) 1493 introduced in the United States House of Representatives is designed to institute similar requirements in favor of businesses that are threatened by ADA litigation. According to H.R. 1493, a suit under the ADA cannot be commenced until written notice is provided to the business owner to allow him to identify the barrier to access. Litigation cannot be initiated until after such notice is received and the owner fails to provide a written description of how such barrier will be cured after 60 days, or upon providing notice, the owner fails to remove the barrier after 120 days.  Similarly, H.R. 620 provides that civil actions for the failure to remove an architectural barrier to access at public accommodations are not permitted unless the potential plaintiff furnishes written notice to the owners and the owners fail to describe in written form the improvements to be made or fail to remediate the barrier.

If you have questions or concerns about whether your business is in compliance with the ADA and the California Building Code, contact California ADA attorney and certified accessibility specialist (CASp) Cris Vaughan for assistance. To discuss your concerns, please call 310.426.2836 in Los Angeles, 415.492.2854 in San Francisco Bay Area and 916.660.9401 in Sacramento.

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