How to Make Your Facility Accessible for People with Disabilities?

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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides protection for persons with disability from discrimination in all areas of the public sphere

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the agency tasked with enforcing this law. Disabilities that they recognize include those afflicted with mental and health incapacities, such that their condition restricts them from performing both minor and major tasks. Physical impairments include blindness, deafness, loss of extremities and the like. There are also mental and psychological disabilities not limited to intellectual disability, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and bipolar disorder. The illnesses exclude certain circumstances that lead to illegal offenses like pedophilia or exhibitionism.

Since no one person is the same, some disabilities are easier to recognize out in the open than others. A person using a cane or other mobility device can be more readily observed than someone who has schizophrenia. Some people also require the use of service animals. These are canines qualified to perform specific tasks unique to the person they help.

Compliance

The California Fair Housing and Employment Act ensures ADA compliance in California. Under this law, each abuse is a civil rights violation punishable with a minimum of $4,000 in damages awarded to each person with disability.

The ADA for Customers

This law covers anyone providing services to the public. No business can discriminate customers on the basis of any infirmity if they want to observe the Act’s spirit and guidelines. Companies are required to create their policies in accordance with this law. Although their employees need to be trained for awareness, businesses need not go beyond their definitive services in order to be compliant. For example, in a supermarket scenario, a person with missing limbs may ask some staff for help between the aisles. Later on, if the customer asks for free home delivery, this is not an obligation of the supermarket if this is a service they do not offer to everyone. In a restaurant setting, a person with diabetes may have a lot of questions about the list of options. However, if the customer asks for a menu item not already offered at the restaurant, the chef is not obliged to fulfill that demand for fear of the law.

Dealing with Service Animals

Sometimes a service animal is not easily apparent. A dog assisting a person with blindness is not as recognizable as a dog trained to detect the symptoms of an imminent seizure. Under the ADA, staff may ask the following questions:

1.       Is the dog for the purpose of assisting due to a disability?

2.       What is the animal trained to help with or to perform?

Only the above questions are allowed to be asked of the customer. Any individual is not obligated to present proof of a medical condition in order to be provided the services they want from the business.

Building Modifications and Enhancements

Since the law was enacted, businesses have been required to make modifications to their facilities. For instance, persons who face challenges in mobility may use wheelchairs, and consequently, wheelchairs require the existence of ramps as well as allotted parking spaces specifically for this reason. Compulsory maintenance must also be provided that such amenities require. For example, businesses must make sure that their elevators are always ready for use and, in case of mechanical issues, there should be a dedicated technician for repairs.

Accessibility for everyone is the goal. Any barriers that might hinder persons with disabilities from getting the services they need should primarily be avoided. Businesses can make all the reasonable adjustments to their facilities. Most importantly, policies and features for the prevention of discrimination must also be adopted.

The ADA at the Workplace

This law does not only deal with business and customer relations. It also extends to all aspects of the workplace setting, from job hiring, to promotions, and to possible termination. The concerned entities of this law are employers who have at least fifteen employees. With the ADA, no establishment can discriminate against a work applicant, or already existing personnel, on the basis of their physical or mental disability.  

If a job aspirant fulfills the necessary qualifications as required by the employer, disability is no reason for rejection. Just the same, any impairment should not deter the applicants from performing the essential tasks of the job since that is what they will be hired to do. Wrongful termination can also be prosecuted under this federal law. Employers must make sure that disabilities are not a hindrance to the advancement of a concerned employee’s career, especially if this will concern wages. Workers must be encouraged to assert their rights. Apart from providing accommodations to customers, businesses must consider the situation of the persons with disability in their workforce. Equal treatment must be afforded by the company to all their staff. 

The key to compliance is sensitivity. Businesses should proactively seek feedback from both their customers and their personnel instead of waiting for their attention to be called. They need to evaluate not just the services they offer but their availability to everyone. Training must regularly be conducted, to make sure that workers are made aware of the policies and their alignment to the law. Well-placed notices informing customers of store policies are a sign of good communication.

The Americans with Disabilities Act is first and foremost a civil rights law. It was well-earned and fought for by many individuals over decades until its eventual enactment. Any responsible entity need not see it as a burden. If they understand the law’s spirit, obedience to its guidelines will come almost naturally.

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