Small business owners have two basic obligations under disability access laws: 1) remove existing architectural barriers to the premises; and 2) comply with building code requirements when doing any construction work.
How to Reduce Your Risk of Being Sued
1. Hire a Certified Access Specialist (CASp). A CASp will survey your premises to identify barriers to access. If you are sued, the CASp inspection report makes you eligible to request a 90-day stay of the lawsuit and an Early Evaluation Conference. Without a report, you cannot benefit from this valuable opportunity.
2. Review the report provided by your CASp. The report either certifies that you have complied with state and federal disability access laws, or explains the steps necessary to achieve full compliance. The report will also provide a recommended timeline for removal of all “readily achievable” barriers to access.
3. Remove barriers over time, according to the CASp report’s timeline, and as you can afford to do so.
4. Use tax credits and deductions to help reduce (or eliminate) the costs of barrier removal.
If you do receive a verbal or written complaint, follow up immediately. Delay tends to lead to litigation. Therefore:
• DO NOT ignore the letter or other complaint sent to you by a person with disability. Letters may be precursors to a lawsuit or complaint filed with DBI.
• DO respond to the letter or other complaint. You may respond by simply letting the complainant know that you take his or her concerns seriously and will consult with a professional, such as CASp inspector and/or legal counsel.
• DO consult with a CASp inspector if you have not done so already.
• Do immediately call an experienced attorney if you are sued.