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Which Businesses Need to Comply with the ADA? What is a Place of Public Accommodation?
When do Architectural Barriers need to be removed?
I’m often asked questions about the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), such as, “If I haven’t done any construction on my property, do I still need to make modifications for handicapped access?” The answer is “It depends.” It depends upon the answers to the following questions:
- Is it privately owned or operated?
- Is it an existing facility?
- Is it a commercial use?
- Is it a “Place of Public Accommodation?”
If the facility is publicly owned or operated by a state or local government, you must comply with the Title II standards of the ADA. Most public facilities are required to be retrofitted for compliance with the 2010 Standards.
What Is A Place of Public Accommodation?
If the property is privately owned or operated, the answer lies in whether the facility is considered a commercial use or a place of public accommodation. The ADA prohibits discrimination against disabled individuals by any person who owns, leases or operates a place of public accommodation.
The ADA contains twelve categories of premises that are considered Places of Public Accommodation – meaning a facility operated by a private entity whose operations affect commerce, examples include:
- Hotels and motels;
- Restaurants, bars, or other establishments serving food or drink;
- Theaters and stadiums;
- Auditoriums, convention centers, and other place of public gathering;
- Shopping centers, retail stores or other sales or rental establishments;
- Service Businesses such as laundromats, banks, beauty;
- Offices, health care providers, hospitals;
- Terminals or stations used for specified public transportation;
- Museums or libraries;
- Parks and places of recreation;
- Private schools, or other places of education;
- Day care center, or other social service establishment; and
- Gyms, Bowling alleys and golf courses.
Discrimination includes failure to remove architectural barriers, and communication barriers that are structural in nature, in existing facilities. The law does, however, provide that when the removal of a barrier is not readily achievable, alternative methods of providing the goods or services may be possible.
Facilities include buildings, structures, sites, equipment, walkways and parking lots.
What About Other Commercial Properties?
Commercial buildings, which do not meet the definition of a place of public accommodation, are obligated by the ADA to meet accessibility standards when newly constructed or altered. Such improvements are often also regulated by local codes and ordinances and may require the facility owner or operator to obtain permits and have the improvements inspected. Places of public accommodation which are newly constructed or altered have similar requirements.
While enforcement of accessibility standards for new construction and alterations is often provided by local government through their Building and/or Engineering Departments, removal of barriers in existing places of accommodation is more likely to be enforced through lawsuits.
Owners and operators of places of public accommodation who fail to identify and remove architectural barriers can find themselves as defendants in such lawsuits.