New ADA Public Accommodation Regulations Provide a Good Opportunity for Businesses to Review Their Policies and Procedures


Most employers have at least some basic understanding of the Americans with Disabilities Act’s (ADA) prohibition against discrimination on the basis of an employee’s disability. Fewer are aware that the ADA contains separate provisions concerning public accommodation requirements for businesses open to the public. In its most basic form, Title III of the ADA requires virtually all facilities open to the public - including restaurants, hotels, motels, retailers, medical facilities, health clubs, museums, libraries, parks, day care facilities and entertainment venues - to remove architectural and communications barriers from their facilities to ensure access to persons with disabilities. The driving force behind the statute is to allow persons with disabilities to participate equally in the goods and services offered by places of public accommodation.

In conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the ADA’s enactment, the Department of Justice recently rolled out several new revisions to the ADA public accommodation regulations. In implementing the new regulations, the Department of Justice has made clear that the new standards should be viewed as “more than incremental changes” to the previously applicable 1991 standards. To that end, in many ways, the new regulations create heightened accessibility requirements for public accommodations.

It is important to note that the new rules contain a “safe harbor” provision. Covered entities that were built or altered in compliance with the 1991 standard will not be required to comply with the 2010 standards unless or until existing facilities are altered in the future. However, new requirements that were not a part of the 1991 standards are not subject to the safe harbor provision. Businesses should begin planning now to achieve compliance with the 2010 standards with regard to these new elements.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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