Opening a retail establishment in California is an exciting and potentially lucrative endeavor. However, it’s essential to guard against unforeseen expenditures and liabilities that could put the store on the wrong side of government mandates.
An important consideration before opening a shop is ensuring full compliance with state and federal regulations. One piece of legislation that affects all commercial enterprises to some degree is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
What is ADA compliance?
Passed in 1990, the ADA provides guidelines for accessibility in public spaces like shops, office buildings, and apartment complexes. These guidelines are also known as Title III compliance.
Many people are familiar with the ADA, such as making parking spaces and bathroom stalls easy for persons with disabilities to use.
No one running a retail establishment would willingly create barriers to access for customers. However, some aspects of accessibility are easy to overlook.
Common areas cited in Title III non-compliance lawsuits mainly relate to wheelchair access, including:
- Aisles that are too narrow
- Checkout counters that are too high
- Lack of adequate space in bathrooms stalls and changing rooms
The minimum fine for non-compliance in California is $4,000.
Tips and suggestions for ADA compliance
California has one of the highest rates of Title III non-compliance lawsuits. Before entering into a commercial real estate contract, it’s important to work with the property owner to ensure that the retail space and adjacent areas meet ADA guidelines.
For example, access for those with mobility issues is regulated through very specific measurements. Handicap parking spaces must be at least 8 feet wide and include a 5-foot access aisle on each side to accommodate vehicles with lifts and wheelchair-bound shoppers.
There must be at least 36 inches of clearance from side to side if there are indoor shopping aisles. There is an additional requirement of at least 60 inches of passing space if the aisle is more than 200 feet long.
When it’s not possible to install automated doors, there must be at least a 32-inch clearance between the door face and door stop when the door is open. Checkout counters can be no higher than 38 inches tall.
Other regulations are meant to improve access for individuals with visual impairments. These include using high-contract colors on signage and adding Braille to store directories and fixtures. Website design should be easy for those with assistive devices to use.
Overlooking ADA guidelines can impact customer satisfaction and result in fines that eat into a company’s bottom line. Meeting compliance helps ensure a more pleasant shopping experience for customers of all ability levels.