Small business operation entails a wide range of responsibilities such as hiring, budgeting, and marketing. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a federal civil rights statute, enacted in 1990, in an effort to reduce discrimination in the United States, is one of your small business’s largest obligations (and one that is often neglected).
It’s not just big companies that need to comply with the ADA. Every company that offers products and services must abide by Title III ADA requirements. You could be involved in an expensive litigation or law suit if your small business is accused of breaking ADA accessibility rules.
This ADA guide for small businesses will explain what the ADA is, why adhering to its standards is crucial, and how you can defend your small business from ADA claims.
What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination and ensures that people with disabilities have the same opportunities and access as everyone else.
The law covers a wide range of disabilities, including visual impairments, hearing impairments, physical limitations, mental illnesses, intellectual disabilities and illnesses.
The law is intended to ensure, through reasonable accommodation, that people with disabilities are provided with the resources they need to have the same experience as people without disabilities.
Remember, the ADA mandates the Department of Justice to provide technical assistance to law-affiliated businesses, state and local governments, and individuals. So if you have any questions, please contact them for more information.
What employers need to know about ADA compliance for small business
Title I and Title III of the ADA regulations are the two major areas that small businesses should concentrate on. Businesses that employ 15 or more people are subject to Title I regulations, while businesses or nonprofit service providers that operate public accommodations or offer products and services fall under Title III. Title II covers state and local governments, or public entities.
Title I compliance
Under the ADA, you are considered a qualified employer if you:
- are engaged in an industry affecting commerce
- employ 15 or more workers every day
- operate for at least 20 calendar weeks in the year.
If you have fewer than 15 employees, you should still be compliant, especially if you plan on expanding your workforce.
Businesses with at least 15 employees are required by Title I to give people with disabilities an equal opportunity to take advantage of all employment-related opportunities.
Additionally, it is against the law for employers to discriminate against staff members based on their disabilities. The law demands that the company make a reasonable effort to guarantee that they can carry out the responsibilities of their employment.
Asking a candidate if they would like to reveal a handicap or disease is against the law, according to the ADA.
Employers are prohibited from requesting this information unless it is specifically relevant to the work the applicant will be performing, and no medical inquiries may be made prior to the employment candidate receiving a conditional offer of employment.
Title III compliance
Title III is concerned with your clients. Customers with disabilities are not allowed to be discriminated against by establishments that are deemed to be “public accommodations” or those that offer goods or services to the general public. This means that you have to make your business ADA compliant.
No matter the size of the establishment, most businesses that provide services to the public are required to comply with Title III regulations. Owners of these businesses are obligated to provide reasonable accommodations and assistance to clients with disabilities.
Among other things, reasonable attempts ought to be made in:
- Implementing an accessible design strategy for your company
- allowing mobility aids and service animals (wheelchair ramps, lifts, and railings)
- Changing the communication channel (sign language interpreters)
- if “readily achievable,” removing physical impediments to current structures (this may include new construction or changing entrances)
- Making accessible restrooms a priority
“Readily achievable” means different things to different businesses, based on the size and resources available to them. If you have a larger entity, you’re expected to be more proactive about barrier removal than a smaller business with fewer resources.
Business owners, especially small business owners, sometimes underestimate the accessibility of websites. Another area with accessibility guidelines is web content. In reality, violations of web content accessibility compliance led to lawsuits against more than 240 companies in federal court in 2015.
A website should have captioned videos and photographs, as well as PDF versions of the content that may be accessed by someone with low vision or who uses an assistive technology device. This will assist in ensuring that your company complies with Title III.
It can be difficult to maintain ADA compliance in all areas of your business if you don’t have the necessary information or an HR representative onsite to help.
The process can be particularly overwhelming for small businesses that are just getting started or may not have much insight into the best practices that will ensure compliance.
SW HR Consulting has been helping companies to build their teams and values for over 10 years. Contact us to find out more about our unique hr outsourcing services and see how our expertise can benefit you.