Owners, franchisors, architects, designers and building contractors who participate in the design and construction of shopping centers, strip centers, hotels, apartment buildings, restaurants and other places that are open to the public must ensure that these facilities comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Preventing ADA mistakes is much less expensive if the mistakes are found during the design process or early in the construction process. However, fixing ADA mistakes may be costly when they are not discovered until after the facility has been built. All owners of older public access buildings must address the fact that they must become ADA compliant.
The ADA lawsuits that are filed are mostly filed because the property has not addressed compliancy or has tried but failed in addressing the ADA laws correctly. Not all contractors and owners understand that compliancy is not just a few blue stripes and a sign. Each property is unique and each property must be expertly designed [re-designed] for compliancy in California. Owners frequently ask the Justice Department, “What can I do to avoid costly ADA mistakes in my facility?” Following are critical steps owners can take to avoid ADA problems.
- Hire a qualified ADA TEAM that must consist of ADA Designer, CASp inspector and a expert ADA attorney.
- Obtain a quality CASp report from an inspector who also does not perform work for the parties that are filing these cases. Ask the questions up front.
- ADA Designer creates the design with CASp review prior to submitting to the city for a permit.
- Expert ADA contractor to perform the work according to ADA design. Obtain city permit approval.
- Obtain final CASp report to confirm all has been reviewed and all meets compliance.
While architects and building contractors generally know the requirements of state building and fire codes, they may not be familiar with the ADA’s civil rights requirements, which are often different. In addition, California has its own set of requirements that must be met. So, the first step owners should take is to hire a complete TEAM for a variety of reasons. They work together precisely, which brings down costs, saves time and a considerable amount of aggravation.
Make Sure the Building Plans Do Not Contain Common ADA Mistakes
Often, ADA mistakes at public facilities can be traced back to construction documents, such as site and building plans. Thus, a careful review of these documents can prevent most ADA mistakes. In older buildings that are looking to become ADA compliant the same applies. Start with an ADA designer and then get city approval. While local officials review these documents to make sure that state and local building and fire code requirements are met, they are all not authorized to enforce federal laws like the ADA, and, consequently, do not review building plans for ADA mistakes.
Make Sure That the Facility is Being Built According to the ADA Requirements as Shown in the Building Plans
While most ADA mistakes occur in the building design, many occur during the construction process. ADA mistakes that occur during construction can often be avoided if an architect or an ADA consultant visits the construction site or monitors progress to make sure the building is being constructed according to the plans.
Inspect the Facility at the Completion of Construction to Identify ADA Mistakes and Have Them Fixed
While it is better to prevent ADA mistakes before they occur, it is also important for owners and franchisors to inspect public facilities after construction to make sure they comply with ADA requirements. The best method is by having a CASp report performed at the beginning and end of the project. A qualified TEAM should provide this as a standard method of practice.
The best solution for ADA compliance is working with a qualified TEAM as previously noted. The ADA lawsuits in California are on the rise again so be proactive and bring your property into compliance correctly, quickly and cost efficiently.
Anthony C. Guichard is the President / Founder of ACR Concrete & Asphalt Construction, Inc. & ACR Design & Build He personally holds licenses; A, B, C-12, C-8 & C-32. ACR Design & Build has significant experience addressing complex access compliance issues in the built environment. They are committed to improving access for individuals with disabilities by providing information, education and access compliance solutions to commercial and rental property owners throughout the State of California. Anthony offers free ADA Compliance Seminars in the Los Angeles areas for an invitation, more information or a field investigation &/or CASP reports call 714-377-9569, 562-472-7730 or 310-773-7900 or at www.acrconcreteinc.com