Keeping up with the Americans with Disabilities Act – what you don’t know can cost you!

February 9, 2015 Kevin Hughes

If you’re an owner or occupier of a large commercial real estate space, chances are you’re well aware of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This law, designed to prohibit discrimination and ensure equal opportunity for people with disabilities, has been in effect since 1991 and has undergone updates, affecting most commercial real estate in some fashion. In fact, all commercial spaces used by the public – as well as many employee-use areas – are required by law to comply with ADA regulations.

Among those most affected by the law are retail establishments, especially those with multiple public areas and locations such as hotels, bank branches, restaurants and retail chains. Buildings with large areas used by patrons such as healthcare facilities, schools and libraries also face major consequences from new ADA regulations.

So what does this mean for you if you’re an owner or occupier? It means you had better take both the law and the updates to the law very seriously – because what you don’t know can cost you. The following are some sobering statistics about non-compliance.

  • Between 2007 and 2014, the amount of ADA charges doubled from $54.5 million to $109.17 million, with 3,190 suits filed in 2007 compared to 5,347 suits in 2014. 
  • The number of claims for ADA violations for mental disabilities such as anxiety, manic-depressive, post-traumatic and other psychological disorders rose almost 225% between 2007 and 2012, from 1,585 to 3,555.
  • Settlement values of these claims jumped 313% during the same period, from $4.3 to $13.5 million.
  • Dollar settlements for physical disability ADA non-compliance claims increased even more sharply during the same 2007-2012 period, surging 238% from $34 to $82 million.

Penalties can range from a warning if authorities feel a violator’s intentions were good to a multi-million dollar remediation for what authorities consider large-scale violations (see below). 

But aside from avoiding a large financial penalty, compliance is just good business. Many associations publish guides and rating systems that evaluate businesses such as hotels and retailers according to accessibility for disabled persons. And being perceived as proactive in enabling access for everyone builds a positive image for your establishment.

Top five “need to know” ADA updates 

With everything you have on your plate, you might be wondering who has time to keep up with the latest version of ADA regulations?

To make it easier for you, we’ve created the a “top five” list of “need to know” ADA updates. Download it here.

Still feeling overwhelmed?

You’re not alone. ADA regulations are complicated, specialized and, let’s face it, not well understood by most corporate real estate executives. Keeping up with the updates to the law, developing and performing the right surveys and designing and implementing the right solutions – sometimes across hundreds of properties – requires specialized expertise in ADA-related architectural design and project management. Mitigate your risk by engaging third-party experts who ‘know what you don’t know’ when it comes to ADA compliance.


Top three most common ADA non-compliant violations

  • Lack of equal access for individuals with disabilities across a large retail portfolio of stores and/or kiosk locations, such as bank ATMs.
  • The Department of Justice has been cracking down on digital ADA compliance, ensuring everything from ATM card readers to websites are accessible.
  • ADA violations in construction commenced after 1993, and not grandfathered in according to the law Online reservations and other information systems that are inadequate for persons wanting accessible offerings (such as hotel rooms) 

About the Author

Kevin Hughes

Kevin Hughes is a Vice President for JLL, based in Chicago. He is responsible for delivery of multi-site, and complex, single-site, program management services throughout the United States. He also has experience delivering projects internationally. Kevin has led multi-disciplinary teams of up to 50 people providing various services to client portfolios. This has ranged from tenant build-outs in malls for Best Buy Mobile to providing survey services at 6,000 retail branches for Bank of Amer

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