Small business owners generally support the concept of making their facilities more accessible to customers and employees.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 introduced federal legislation to eliminate discrimination and promote accessibility for people with disabilities. So what's the problem?
Cost. Although ADA made businesses and public places more open to people with disabilities, it did so at business owners' expense. Despite tax credits and other incentives, the lion's share of the financial burden for accessibility was shifted to business owners, many of whom were already struggling to make ends meet.
The cost of ADA compliance can be significant or negligible depending on your individual circumstances. Some accessibility features can be done in an afternoon, while others will require coordinated, long range planning. You've put off the issue of ADA compliance long enough – now it's time to get serious and educate yourself about the real costs of compliance for business owners.
Full ADA compliance for new construction and remodels is mandatory. These costs need to be carefully researched and integrated into project budget estimates. For existing construction, business owners are required to eliminate architectural barriers when it is readily achievable. If the financial burden of retrofits is cost-prohibitive at the present time, you are required to make necessary accommodations now and create a long-term plan for full compliance. But putting off full compliance also has a financial risk because it creates legal exposure for ADA lawsuits.
Cost Management Strategies
- Planning. Planning can be an effective strategy for managing the cost of ADA compliance. Business owners should fully research the ADA requirements that apply to their operation and incorporate the cost of retrofits and other improvements into their annual budgets.
- Prioritization. Many compliance issues can be achieved inexpensively. The Small Business Administration advises business owners to prioritize ADA compliance tasks starting with exterior features (e.g. parking lots and entrances) and then interior improvements (e.g. aisles and bathrooms).
- Explore alternatives. Explore all of the alternatives before committing to a costly ADA compliance action plan. For example, if your lease is expiring, it might make more sense to move to a single story facility than to negotiate with your landlord on an elevator installation.
- Network. The small business community is full of creative ideas and cost-saving strategies. Talk to other small business owners in your network to identify ways to manage the impact of full ADA compliance on your bottom line.