Last week, I traveled out of town. Inevitably, I needed to make a stop to use the bathroom. I parked my truck in a parking spot in a retail business’s parking lot, which spot was not marked with the blue handicap designation.
However, when I got to the men’s room, all urinals/stalls except for one “handicapped” accessible stall were occupied. Of course, my over-analytical mind instantly wondered if it was OK to use a handicap bathroom even though I cannot use a handicap parking spot, unless I am truly handicapped.
I determined that use of handicap facilities in a bathroom are non-exclusive as to handicapped and non-handicapped individuals. However, handicapped designated parking spots are to be exclusively used by handicapped individuals.
The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act was a major milestone in protection of people with disabilities. That federal law created several requirements for handicap accessibility for businesses that provide goods and services. And, like most federal laws, federal bureaucrats can create more detailed requirements based upon the generalized requirements set forth in the ADA itself.
The most recent, extensive updates to the ADA’s regulations were created by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2010. The ADA has proven itself valuable to all Americans, disabled, handicapped or not. Travel to almost any other foreign country immediately demonstrates how much more conveniently even able-bodied people like me are able to travel and conduct commerce here versus in those other countries, largely due to the ADA.
The ADA essentially requires that businesses make reasonable accommodations to allow people with various physical disabilities to be able to participate in the purchase of the goods and services sold by those businesses. Rather than leave business owners wondering what is “reasonable,” federal law provides specific details on “reasonableness” in this context.
For example, an ADA-compliant bathroom’s open space must be at least 60 inches of diameter, and there must be at least 60 inches of space around the toilet itself. Obviously and understandably, the rules are lengthy and detailed. The rules’ extensive detail is not designed to be unnecessarily burdensome or to promote big government. Rather, the details in the ADA eliminate ambiguity on compliance.
Existing businesses were not and are not officially “grandfathered” into the ADA, so some requirements of the law were immediately imposed upon owners of long-established businesses at the time when the ADA was put into law. Even now, a business that inhabits an existing building that is not ADA-compliant must remove all architectural barriers that limit handicap accessibility. How much modification the business may be required to make is based upon numerous, specific factors set forth in the law, including the size of the business and the business’s history at that physical location.
Notably, any alterations (remodeling, for example) to a business building and all new construction must comply with all aspects of the ADA. Therefore, even if a business owner simply wants to expand a small part of the showroom of the business, the entirety of the construction must be completely compliant with all aspects of the ADA.
Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at Lee@LeeSchroeder.com or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.