The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal civil rights law that prohibits the exclusion of people with disabilities from everyday activities, such as buying an item in a store, watching a movie in a theater, enjoying a meal at a local restaurant, exercising at the local health club, or having their car serviced at a local garage. To meet the goals of the ADA, the law established requirements for private businesses of all sizes. These requirements first went into effect on January 26, 1992, and continue for both for-profit and nonprofit organizations.
If you own, operate, lease, or lease to a business that serves the public, then you are covered by the ADA and are legally obligated to have all of your facilities in compliance with the rules and regulations. In addition to removing any and all physical barriers that are in violation of the ADA rules, you must also provide designated accessible parking space.
The ADA requires that employers provide “reasonable accommodation” to otherwise qualified disabled workers, so that they are able to perform the essential functions of their jobs.
Here are a few examples of how small businesses can ensure they are in compliance with the ADA rules and regulations:
- Provide a modified workplace policy or procedure, such as an attendance policy.
- Provide a restructured job environment, for example, shifting certain job responsibilities to other employees.
- Provide unpaid leave if a disabled employee requests it.
- Provide a modified or part-time schedule.
Employers should also be aware that they are not required by the ADA rules to:
- Provide personal use items, such as artificial limbs, a wheelchair, eyeglasses, hearing aids, or similar devices.
- Change the disabled employee’s supervisor based on a complaint alone. (Be cautious, however, that a lawsuit declaring “discrimination” does not result; when in doubt, consult with a qualified legal counsel.)
- Excuse a violation of a uniformly applied conduct rule that is job-related and consistent with business necessity.
- Have lower production standards that are applied to all disabled employees. (However, the employer may be required to help a disabled employee meet the production standards.)
The only exception to the ADA laws are for employers with fewer than 15 employees, and when an employer can prove that complying with the ADA laws would impose an undue hardship on their business.
For a complete listing of all ADA rules and regulations, visit the online ADA Guide for Small Businesses.