Americans with Disabilities Act
As a rental or commercial property owner, you will be faced with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance issues at some point. Each property is uniquely different and what works for one property doesn’t necessarily work for another property. The sheer amount of information needed to identify and design around these issues can be overwhelming.
In the effort of being proactive, property owners need to be very careful on where they obtain information. The last thing one needs is to be on the defensive if you have to counter an ADA Compliance lawsuit.
The internet is a great resource however, you may research online for ADA compliant counters, sinks, fixtures, door handles, etc. and find articles or information that state that they are indeed ADA compliant however, it is quite possible that they are not compliant in the State of California.
When researching ADA materials, make sure all materials and information relate to CA DSA 2013 CBC 11 B for accessibility. The Division of the State Architect has provided very stringent and strict information for California that is unlike any other state. The most common error is in soliciting information from architects, engineers, designers and especially contractors who are not fully rehearsed with 2013 CBC 11 B and all current design changes. The laws constantly change and this is where the value of obtaining a CASp report [California Access Specialist program] from a company that can provide a complete solution is the proactive start to making sure that your property is on its way to becoming ADA compliant.
CASp applies to California only. CASp is a report that is specifically compiled and tailored towards a certain property. It entitles the owner to a 90 day stay or a temporary halting of all litigation preventing attorneys from engaging in motions, discovery or other activities that compound legal fees. It will also provide the owner an early evaluation conference administered by the courts where both parties will have the opportunity to explore if the lawsuit can be settled.
For example, if the lawsuit is based on an alleged violation that would be easy for the business or property owner to fix and the business or property owner is willing to resolve the issue quickly, the parties might be able to discuss whether further litigation is necessary. Without the possession of a CASp report prior to a lawsuit, the business owner or property owner could be faced with expensive legal fees.
Question: Does having a CASp report mean I’m 100% compliant?
Answer: No. The DSA (District of State Architect) has certified a class of individuals who have expertise in all facets of ADA compliance. These CASp individuals have gone through rigorous training and passing of tests designed by the DSA. A CASp inspection will identify current violations and provide comments according to 2013 CBC 11 B. At this point, it is up to the property owner to make the corrections. Simply having the CASp inspection does not make you compliant. Having a CASp report will initiate the 90 day stay or temporary halting of litigation.
Question: I recently had an owner call me and ask me for clarification due to the fact that his asphalt contractor reviewed his ADA parking area at the liquor store and he stated that it would be impossible to comply with current ADA ramps. The owner wanted to know if this meant he didn’t have to do the work?
Answer: Sadly, most contractors do not have the understanding and cannot make this determination. Just because you designate a parking spot and paint the disabled sign doesn’t make it complaint or safe from potential lawsuits. It is always suggested to obtain a CASp Inspection report. In this situation, if the existing conditions are such that a ramp will not physically work then the CASp report would reflect that and it would state that it is technically infeasible to comply. It is highly suggested not to rely on a contractor with limited knowledge of ADA compliance. The DSA will recognize a CASp inspection and report over a contractor.
Question: I heard about the increases in ADA lawsuits so I wanted to be proactive with my small retail center. I hired an asphalt contractor who stated he could perform striping and signage and I would be fine. Am I protected?
Answer: Most likely not; ADA compliance typically requires a Path of Travel from the city walk that meets critical tolerances, truncated domes, proper striping with contrasting color, signage, entrance signage, curb ramps etc. You are better served by becoming completely compliant and if you cannot meet compliance due to a physical issue then consult with a CASp Inspector to note this in his report. If you are sued at a later date the CASp inspection will be offered in your defense and carries far more leverage than a contractor.
ADA Compliance is truly captured when the several things happen all at once. First, the design is in the details. Then a high level of attention and coordination must be incorporated into dimensioning the plans and elevations to provide the right contractor correct information. Having a design team that also performs the construction with experience or training in ADA standards whose sole purpose is checking for accessibility compliance is an important step to achieve compliance correctly in California. Your best source is to consult with an ADA Team that specializes in accessibility and performs all tasks in house from, design, formal plans, permits and construction of the corrections per strict tolerances set forth by the DSA.