The ADA, Businesses and Barrier Removal: What are the Requirements?

February 19, 2019


Obligations for businesses operating from existing buildings continues to be one of the most misunderstood requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). People forget that the ADA is a civil rights law and not a building code. Numerous lawsuits and complaints have arisen due to the lack of barrier removal by retail and business establishments on main streets across the country. Tune into this session to learn from our presenters about the ADA requirements for "readily achievable barrier removal" and how it applies to a place of public accommodation.

Speakers URL:


Peter Berg

Thank you, Joelle, and good day to everyone joining us. This is the February session of the ADA Audio Conference session. The ADA Businesses, and Barrier Removal, what is required. The ADA Audio Conference is a program of the ADA National Network. The ADA National Network is comprised of ten regional ADA Centers funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Community Living, National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research. You may always contact your ADA Center by calling 800-949-4232.

We have what I think is an excellent topic. I think it's one of the more misunderstood areas of the ADA. And we have two fantastic presenters today to hopefully untangle this for you.

I am pleased to be joined by two of my colleagues, Jennifer Perry, she is an access specialist. She is with the Northeast ADA Center, and Nancy Horton is an information specialist, and she is with the Mid-Atlantic ADA Center. As a reminder, today's session is being recorded, and an archive will be made available in the very near future. There will be an opportunity for to you ask questions for our presenters. For those of you on the telephone, when we get to that point, we will give you instructions. For those participating in the webinar platform, you may submit your questions throughout today's presentation.

So without further ado, I would like to introduce my colleague, Jennifer Lynn Perry. Jennifer and Nancy, welcome.

Jennifer Perry

Thank you. Thank you very much, Peter. This is Jennifer Perry, and once again, just like to welcome everyone here today. Peter did a great job of introducing both Nancy and myself. For your information, Nancy and I have provided our direct contact information with the slides for today, so if you do have any questions in the future and you would like to reach out to us, please do feel free to do so. We would encourage you to do that. So we have provided our contact information, and Nancy and I are going to be switching back and forth, hopefully it's a little more interesting for those of you listening on the phone today.

I just wanted to take a quick second for anyone joining today that might not be familiar with the ADA National Network. Just let you know we are physically a National Network of regional centers that provide things like training programs, technical assistance, consultation, as well as materials, even things such as fact sheets, on all aspects of the ADA. The ADA is, of course, a very broad federal civil rights law that protects the rights of people with disabilities in a number of areas. Those are reflected in the titles of the ADA that you see here. So if you ever have a question regarding employment, state and local government obligations, commercial facilities, or public accommodations, telecommunications, please do feel free to use your local ADA Center as a resource on all of those areas where the ADA applies.

Public accommodations is in bold on the screen right now because the focus of today's webinar, particularly barrier removal, we are really talking about obligations that fall under Title III of the ADA, so that's why you see that in bold. And we do have a slide at the end of the presentation that will contain that 1-800 number that Peter mentioned briefly, so if you didn't catch it then, we'll make sure that we have it up for you at the end of today's presentation.

So in putting together today's presentation, Nancy and I thought it might be a good starting point to share a few statistics that really support the benefits of accessibility for business owners. What we wanted to point out here was more than 50 million Americans, which is approximately 18% of our population, have disabilities. In addition to that, about 71.5 million baby boomers will be over the age of 65 by the year 2030. As many of you can imagine, accessibility barriers tend to become an individual for individuals as they age.

In addition to that, according to a study, over half of consumers with disabilities have said that they would shop more frequently or spend more money in places like restaurants and stores that have made an effort to be accessible and welcoming to people with disabilities. So all of this kind of brings us back to this understanding of the fact that people with disabilities and their family and their friends and their caregivers, they all want to patronize businesses that ultimately are welcoming to people with disabilities. So to sum it up, accessibility really does make good business sense.

There's also been some research done that we can share with you. If you take a look at some of the research that has been done regarding the disability market, specifically the spending power of working-age people with disabilities, you can see that the total after-tax disposable income for working-age people with disabilities is about $490 billion, which is similar to that of other significant market segments, such as African Americans and Hispanics. In addition to that, discretionary income for working-age people with disabilities is about $21 billion, which is greater than that of the African American and Hispanic market segments combined.

So the message here is that working-age people with disabilities certainly do have spending power, and as we saw on the last slide, they prefer to spend those dollars at businesses that are welcoming to people with disabilities. And you can access this research report. We provided a link to the website where you can access additional information about this research.

So I think that our focus today is on places of public accommodation, and places of public accommodation include most types of businesses, regardless of the size of the business or the age of the building that that business is housed in. So some examples of public accommodations include things like stores; restaurants and bars; movie theaters, theaters; hotels; fitness centers, bowling alleys; banks, gas stations, as well as professional offices, such as your doctor's office. So this is not an exhaustive list, but this gives you a sense of what that term "place of public accommodation" encompasses.

So this slide here really is important because this is, frankly, one of the biggest misconceptions about the ADA. And it is -- there's -- sometimes there's a misunderstanding that if you have a business that is located in a building, particularly a building that was built pre-ADA, that that business is somehow grandfathered. Which is not the case. But because people sometimes have that misconception, some business owners might think that they don't have any obligation under the ADA because of some kind of grandfathering provision. Nancy and I, our goal for today is to dispel that misunderstanding, and if you have additional questions, we'd be happy to address them.

But the reason that there is no grandfathering under the ADA is because what the ADA says is businesses have an obligation to remove barriers to accessibility when it is it isly achievable to do so.

Readily achievable has a definition, which isn't the clearest of all definitions, but it's generally defined as something that is easily accomplished without much difficulty or expense. So if you have a business and it's housed in a building that was built pre-ADA, you are not grandfathered. Your obligation is to remove barriers to accessibility if it's readily achievable to do so. And again, readily achievable means easily accomplished without much difficulty or expense. We are going to talk about that a little more as we go through today's presentation.

I did want to point out that there is, in contrast here, under many building code provisions throughout the country, building codes do often contain grandfather provisions that are usually based on the age of a particular building. The same is not true under the ADA, and that really is because the ADA is not a building code. It's a federal civil rights law.

So let's talk about that term "readily achievable." So determining what is or is not readily achievable really does require some planning. A few things that you want to consider. If you know that you have some barriers to accessibility, some of the things you want to consider if you are examining getting rid of those barriers is the nature and cost of the barrier removal actions, your overall financial resources, including those resources of the site or sites involved; how this barrier removal will impact your resources and your operations; as well as any safety concerns that might come up.

If a business is part of a chain, a much larger network of stores, or it's related to a parent company, factors such as financial resources of the apartment company may need to be considered if you are trying to determine if removal of a barrier is readily achievable or not. And that often hinges on the nature of the administrative or the fiscal relationship between the local business and the parent company. So for example, some locations of national chains are owned and operated by the national organization while others are merely franchises, which are owned and operated by separate entities, which may be relatively small. So it's going to be a different financial tie between the parent company and the local business in that scenario.

But the point is if there is any type of parent corporation or entity, oftentimes the financial resources of that parent company have to also be examined when determining whether or not a barrier is readily achievable to remove.

Now, the U.S. Department of Justice -- remember, that's the federal agency that enforces Title III of the ADA -- has given us some guidance and some examples of barrier removal efforts, meaning things that businesses can do to improve accessibility. So we are going to go through some of what the Department of Justice considers as barrier removal efforts.

So they include things like installing ramps, providing curb cuts, within your business even rearranging your furniture or shelving to provide greater access for people that might use mobility devices; adding raised markings on your elevator control buttons; flashing alarms, widening doors; eliminating a turnstile so that you can provide an alternative accessible path of travel. Here's a few more examples. Installing grab bars in your toilet stalls if they are not in place, even purchasing a raised toilet seat, rearranging toilet partitions, insulating your pipes in the lavatory or sink, creating accessible parking spaces, or removing carpeting. So these are just some examples of measures that you can undertake to improve accessibility as part of your barrier removal.

I also wanted to point out, remember, barrier removal very specifically applies to older buildings, built pre-ADA. Any facility that was constructed after -- per Title III after January of 1993 is required to be accessible and has been for quite some time. Any building that undergoes significant alterations also has obligations, even minor alterations, to include accessibility. Barrier removal really is addressing those buildings when the ADA was not applicable to try to bring things so that they are more accessible for the people that patronize your business.

So I have a sense that many business owners might be listening today and say okay, okay, so I understand that I have to determine if there's any barriers to accessibility at my business, and then I have to determine if it's readily achievable for me to remove those barriers. And you might look around and say, well, I have a few. I have a few barriers, and I don't know where to start so we kind of have a few questions we are going to pose to you. We are going to kind of take a breath, pose a few questions, and pause for a moment so that you can kind of think through what you think the right answer might be.

So the -- actually, I am sorry about that. I thought my polling questions were there. They are actually not coming up yet. Let's start here. The Department of Justice that I mentioned a moment ago, they actually have given us some guidance. If you are that business owner with several barriers and you don't know where to begin, here are the recommended priorities that the U.S. Department of Justice would urge you to follow. You don't have to, but they encourage you to do so.

So the first priority is can people with disabilities approach and get into your place of business? Do you have an accessible approach and entrance? And you want to think about what are the site arrival points like at your business? Is there access from the public sidewalk? From the parking area? Or from the bus if those areas are located near your site, I should say. You want to think about do you have an accessible entrance? Is a ramp necessary? Can you widen your entrance? Or can you provide accessible parking spaces if you have a parking area? So that's priority # 1. Accessible approach and entrance.

The second priority would be to examine if people with disabilities can adequately get to what you are selling. Can they get to your goods as well as your services, the reason your business exists? So in doing this, you want to think about can you adjust the layout of your displays or your racking systems? Can you rearrange furniture or tables or improve signage, widen doorways, install ramps, anything of that nature that's going to give someone who already has been able to get through your front door into your place of business, you want to make sure that they can then get to where you are actually selling your goods and services.

The third priority is providing access to your toilet rooms if you provide toilet rooms. So that can include things like certainly rearranging furniture to provide people access to the toilet room, widening doors, maybe providing accessible signage, bringing the stalls or toilet room itself into additional compliance or installing grab bars. So thinking about how people with disabilities can access and use your toilet room.

And then the fourth priority includes access to what are referred to as "other elements." Other elements include things like drinking fountains, if you provide them, or public telephones, which I know we don't see much more of these days, but if you happen to have them, taking a look at whether or not your public telephones do meet ADA accessibility requirements. But that is considered to be the fourth priority if you are ranking your accessibility improvements.

Now, there are some instances where it might not be readily achievable for you to remove a barrier to accessibility, meaning it's not easily accomplishable without much difficulty or expense for you to remove a certain barrier. When that is the case, have you to then think about other alternatives to provide your goods and services to people with disabilities. Sometimes those alternatives include things like home delivery, providing services at alternate locations, or relocate the activities to other alternate locations. It could be something as simple as having staff offer to provide assistance, perhaps with retrieving merchandise from a shelf that's beyond accessible reach ranges.

But the point is if it's not readily achievable, you still have to consider those alternatives, ways that you can make your goods or services accessible to people with disabilities.

Here's my first question. I said that I would let you guys ponder. So given everything we just shared, the question I wanted to ask is if an area of a store is only reachable by a flight of steps, do you think, as part of barrier removal obligations, that the owner of the store is required to add an elevator?

So again, if you have an area of the store that's only reachable by a flight of steps, is the owner required to add an elevator?

So I am just going to move forward here to the answer. I saw at least one person use the chat box and said no. And they were correct. No, usually this answer would be no. And the reason is because readily achievable, that definition of easily accomplishable without much difficulty or expense, really would not generally include installation of an elevator.

But remember, those alternative measures would still have to be put in place to make those goods and services accessible.

Here we have a second question, and that question is if a business has a portable ramp that they use for deliveries, can't they just use that for accessibility? So again, you have a business, it's in a building, remember, built pre-ADA, so we are talking about barrier removal. And they have a portable ramp. And they say well, let's just use that. What do you guys think?

I am just going to move forward. The answer to this would be yes, but there's a very strong warning, if you will, here. They can only use that temporary ramp if the installation of a permanent ramp is not readily achievable. In addition to that, safety has to be a concern. So if you are going to use a portable ramp, particularly one that you use for deliveries, remember that it's still going to have to meet those same requirements for other ramps that you see out in your community. So it's going to have to have railings, a firm, stable, nonslip surface. The running slope of the ramp should not exceed 1:12. And it has to be properly secured. And train staff on how to use it.

So this is not ideal that you would certainly -- it's not ideal that you would use this type of ramp for an accessible route for people with disabilities, but under the barrier removal standard, if you have taken safety precautions that we just discussed, that might be an option under barrier removal, and that's a big difference between new construction because in new construction, you would never be permitted to use a temporary ramp. So it's just Congress's recognition of in older buildings, barrier removal standard is a lesser standard than apply for new construction and alterations.

With that, I think I am going to pass it over to Nancy.

Nancy Horton

Thanks, Jennifer.

We wanted to take a moment, now that Jennifer has given us such a great introduction to the whole concept of barrier removal, there is a checklist that was produced by one of our sister agencies, the New England ADA Center, which is a project of the Institute for human centered design up in Boston, and you can find it online at

And that is great checklist. One of the few that's out there that's been updated to reflect the updated 2010 ADA standards, and it's really designed for barrier removal. It's a pretty user friendly yet fairly comprehensive checklist that a business owner or operator in many cases can conduct an assessment of their own property, their own facilities. There is a great set of instructions with the checklist. It tells folks how to measure things. So it's a pretty user-friendly checklist that a business operator could use just to get an idea to sort of get a baseline and identify existing barriers that might be within the property, and you can always call your regional ADA Center if you'd like to have a little help talking through the checklist or understanding it and using it. So it is a great tool that business operators can use to sort of get started on this barrier removal process.

Something else that we want to take a moment to really focus on -- and we'll touch on this again as we move forward with our presentation -- and that's a requirement in Title III for the maintenance of accessible features on this slide here, slide 27 we are up to now if anybody is trying to follow along with our slides. This is some language right out of Title III regulation, Section 36.211, and it just says that public accommodation needs to maintain in operable working condition features that are required to be accessible. There is a limitation that this language says this is not intended to prohibit isolated or temporary interruptions in service or access due to maintenance or repairs. So again, there's that recognition of the balance between accessibility and the real world. We all know that, you know, elevators are going to break down occasionally and things are going to happen, but there is this requirement, it's a very important requirement. Very often we find that a lot of barriers and issues that individuals with disabilities have are related to maintenance issues.

So for example, certain spaces under the ADA standards need to be clear. Clear spaces need to be kept clear, free of obstructions. This could include things as simple as that, not storing supplies in the accessible toilet stall or toilet room because there's empty space in there. The empty space is for is a purpose. Accessible routes need to be kept clear. And it could include things like repair work. Again, making sure that if the elevator does break down that that's dealt with as promptly as possible. Repairing things like potholes and cracks in surfaces, keeping accessible routes and curb ramps and things show veld of snow and things of that nature. These are all very important features. If you have an accessible space or element that isn't maintained, then it's not accessible any longer.

So we want to talk about accessible parking on slide 28. Accessible parking is such a key issue for a lot of folks with disabilities. You know, if there's parking available and the accessible parking isn't right or isn't well maintained, then, as Jennifer mentioned, if you can't get in the door, you can't access goods and services. So things to think about if you are providing parking for your customers are the required number of accessible spaces provided. All the spaces marked? Are they identified with the international symbol of accessibility so people can tell what they are for? Are the car accessible spaces at least eight feet wide with an adjacent access aisle at least five feet wide? And does at least one out of every six accessible spaces have at least 98 inches of vertical clearance for lift-equipped vans, and is either: At least 11 feet wide with the adjacent access aisle at least 5 feet wide; or at least 8 feet wide with an adjacent access aisle at least 8 feet wide? These so-called van-accessible spaces that we are talking about here, these have a little extra width for folks who use the larger vehicles, lift or ramp equipped vans or other larger vehicles, they need a little more extra width for folks to be able to deploy those lifts or ramps and get in and out of their vehicles.

Now, here's just a little chart on slide 29. This chart shows the sort of basic what we call scoping provisions, which means it tells us which elements or spaces or how many need to be accessible. So how many accessible spaces are needed is based on the total number in a lot or garage, in a parking facility. This is for most of your basic types of facilities -- doors and restaurants and things that are covered under Title III of the ADA. So I am not going to read all of this but it's sort of just basically one accessible space per 25 until you start getting to larger lots, and then the ratio sort of goes down a little bit, and when you get into really larger lots, between 501 and 1,000, 2% of the total. Once you get over a thousand, the formula changes a little bit again. So you really have to kind of look at the table to figure out how many spaces are needed, and there are certain types of facilities, certain facilities that provide specific types of medical services that are required to have a little more accessible parking.

On slide 30, we have a diagram just to kind of show you an example of what these spaces could look like. On the far left of this slide, you see a van accessible space that's configured in that way where the space and the adjacent access aisle are both a minimum of 8 feet wide. And on the right you see an example of a van-accessible space that's 11 feet wide sharing a 5-foot-wide access aisle with a parking space that's on the other side of the access aisle. That's an 8-foot-wide minimum space, and that's a car-accessible space. So accessible parking spaces can share an aisle between them.

Keeping in mind that this is an area where we find a lot of additional requirements in state and local laws, and we'll talk a little bit more about that in a minute. Now, this is very, very important. A very important part of accessible parking is that the parking space, of course, it has to be connected to where people are going after they've parked in that space. So parking spaces have to be located on the shortest possible accessible route of travel to the building entrance or facility where people are going. If you've got a parking lot or garage that serves multiple buildings or multiple entrances, then accessible parking spaces should be dispersed. They should be scattered around a bit so there are some choices of folks being able to get closer to those different entrances to the different tenancies or the different buildings that the parking might serve. And then most of you are probably familiar with this concept. You see something like this at larger shopping centers and malls, and there will be some accessible spaces located near to the various entrances.

Here is an image of an example of that. You can see in this image, there's a storefront. It looks like a strip mall or a shopping center there. You can see over on the right an accessible parking space. You can see the sign there with the international symbol of accessibility. In this particular location, they've striped a crosswalk going from the accessible parking space, the access aisle is on the other side of the car that's parked in that space there. You can't see the access aisle, but we know it's there.

And so the person can connect from the access aisle of the parking space to the crosswalk and cross the street there.

Now, marking a crosswalk isn't required under the ADA standards. It may be required under other laws or codes. It's always a nice feature, sometimes even where it's not required it's not a bad idea. It tends to be a nice visual sort of alert for both individuals with disabilities as far as where to go to follow the accessible route as well as motorists to be aware that this is a pedestrian crossing.

On slide 33, this sign shows the location of the sign that I mentioned. Parking spaces need to be designated by a sign. Signs need to be located so that they are at least 60 inches minimum above the ground, above the level of the parking surface, measured to the bottom of the sign so that these signs can be easily seen by folks looking for parking spaces or enforcement, law enforcement, or security personnel looking to enforce parking.

So here is a nice what's wrong with this picture picture. Just give you a minute to see if you can find the sign designating this supposedly accessible parking space. If you haven't spotted it yet, you will see in front of the car, there is a little international symbol of accessibility, which would be just fine if it weren't propped on the ground up against a trash can that's in front of the car there. So that is not a very good designation of that space. People -- this car could be pulled into this spot and maybe not even notice that little sign propped on the ground there. So that's not going to be the best use of that space.

On this image, this image shows, if you can see, this is an accessible parking space, and it's got a sign up there at the head of the parking space, but it looks like it might be little low, and it's definitely a little bit -- it's got this whole hedge bushes in front of it, and it's not very visible there, so that can be problematic.

And on our next slide, slide 36, this is an image that shows a parking sign that's got a nice sign there that has all the penalty information, and that sign might be required by state or local law about what happens if a person parks in this space, they are going to be towed, they are going to have to pay a fine, and there's a nice little van accessible designation down there, but up top you can sort of see where the sign actually has the international symbol of accessibility that's really the signal and the designation of this as an accessible parking space has fallen down or been taken away and hasn't been replaced. So again, that makes this space not so easy to spot, and possibly not enforceable by local authorities.

And on slide 37, I mentioned earlier that the area of accessible parking, which is such a fundamental issue for so many people with disabilities, is an area where we do tend to find a lot of additional or more specific requirements under state and local law. Additional signs like the one here, penalty signs, specific colors used in the markings, or even increased requirements, more accessible spaces required or larger spaces or more van spaces or things of that nature. So we always encourage folks to really check on state and local laws when you are dealing with parking because you want to make sure that you comply with both the ADA and other laws that may apply.

And so with that, I am going to kick it back to Jennifer, who is going to talk a little bit more about entrances.

Jennifer Perry

Thank you so much, Nancy. Nancy did a great job going over accessible parking, which absolutely is of great importance to many people with disabilities, particularly when they are out shopping, visiting stores and restaurants.

So we are going to kind of continue on this path, if you will, imagining that we've arrived at a Bess and we've talked about accessible parking. We are going to kind of move through the front door and talk about entrances and doors now for a minute.

Obviously, an accessible entrance is crucial so that somebody with a disability has the ability to get into your place of business. What you see in this image here is really trying to stress some of the key factors regarding accessible entrances. The area in yellow highlight is showing you what would be an accessible route of travel that could be used by somebody who uses a mobility device. I want to stress the importance that you want to make sure that that accessible route coincides with or is in the same general area as the path that used by other general areas of the business.

In addition to that, what you don't want to do is make people with disabilities travel a longer or more circuitous route, if you will, than that route which is used by the j enpublic. So in this scenario here, we have some steps, but immediately adjacent to it, we have a ramp. So our path of travel, our accessible path of travel, is certainly coinciding with the general circulation path. Many businesses install features such as security bollards that are shown here on this slide to protect perhaps things like carts from, you know, leaving the place of business. Those bollards are not a violation of ADA but what would be a violation is if you didn't have clear width between those bollards to allow someone with a disability to pass through them, particularly if they are passing through those to get access to a ramp to get into the main entrance.

So generally an accessible routes requires at least 36 inches of clear width. Depending on the depth of the bollards being used, you might be able to provide a minimum of 32 inches clear width. But in either instance, there cannot be any less than 32 inches of clear width between them, assuming those bollards are, like I said, less than 2 feet in depth. So we also have to, once you've gone up the ramp, we provide an accessible entrance where at least one compliant door is required, and it has the 32 inches of clear width and some other features that we'll talk about. If you have a fbility with multiple enfacility with multiple entrances, you want to let people know where that entrance is, and that's done by using signage with the international symbol of accessibility, and that is required to note your accessible entrances.

If all of your entrances are accessible, then you don't need to post the ISA sign, but if they are not, that's when do you have to be sure to post that signage so people do know where the accessible entrance is.

One of the most common questions we get at the ADA National Network is people say well, they don't have an accessible door, they don't have an accessible entrance at such-and-such business because they don't have an automatic or a power-assist door. The 2010 ADA standards for accessible design do not require the installation of automatic doors or power assist doors. They excellent. I would never discourage a business owner from providing them if they would like to, but they are not a requirement. They are absolutely recommended because of many features, one of which is depending on how hard the wind is blowing at a certain time of the day, that can make pulling a door or pushing a door very difficult. Obviously, having an automatic feature or power assist feature can alleviate that problem. So I would absolutely encourage their use, but again, not required.

The General Services Administration, however, or GSA, they have a requirement for these automatic doors at federal buildings, but that is a unique feature for the General Services Administration. It is not found, as I said, in the 2010 ADA standards.

So as I said, many people think doors have to be automatic to be accessible, which as we just said, is not the case, but there are other requirements for doors that have to be in place for those doors to be not only accessible but also usable by people with disabilities. What you see here, particularly the areas shown in yellow highlight, are showing you door maneuvering clearances. Maneuvering clearance is really nothing more than clear space that has to be provide that had can allow someone, particularly someone using a mobility device, to position themselves close enough to a door to actually grasp and push or pull the hardware and then perhaps maneuver themselves free of the swing of the door so that door is, indeed, usable by them. Now, there's a lot of technical requirements that are associated here, and they hinge largely on the direction of travel as you approach the door, whether you are pushing the door or pulling the door, and if you have additional questions about that, you certainly can talk to your local ADA Center. We would be happy to talk you through those requirements. But fundamentally, door maneuvering clearance is a crucial requirement for a door to be accessible.

So here is an example. Nancy mentioned a really important point a few minutes ago about the maintenance of accessible features. This photograph kind of speaks to a maintenance issue. So here we have -- this is an indoor door. But I don't know if everyone can see, but there is a trash can that's located on -- right there where the door would latch. It's a gray trash can. Now, obviously, this is an easy thing to fix. Right? You can relocate the trash can. But if you are somebody using a mobility device and need to approach this door and pull it over towards you, that trash can is located directly within that maneuvering clearance that you just saw on the last slide -- I can go back for a minute -- the yellow highlighted area, particularly on the left side where that door laches, directly where that trash can is located in this photo. From the maintenance perspective, taking a look around your place of business, making sure you don't have things like furniture or trash cans located within those crucial areas is something that you can do that is at no cost to you to provide access to people with disabilities.

Nancy, I think we have a quick switch back to you with protruding objects.

Nancy Horton

Yes, thanks, Jennifer. We just wanted to take a couple of moments to touch on this issue, which is sometimes overlooked, and that is protruding objects, objects that are very often mounted on walls and that protrude out into the spaces, the corridors and spaces where people are moving around.

On this slide, on slide 42, there is an illustration here that sort of shows where things can protrude and how much they can protrude and not be problematic. You see there's this gentleman in this image here, this gentleman is blind, he is navigating with a long cane, and things that are sticking out from walls and so forth, if they are below 27 inches above the floor or ground, they are what we call cane detectable. That's an area of cane detection. Folks that are navigating this way, they are going to perceive those kinds of objects.

Things that are above 80 inches, way up high, are over most people's heads, those are not problematic if they are sticking out. But between there, between 27 and 80 inches above the floor, things should not be protruding more than 4 inches. A lot of people who are blind will navigate along an edge of a corridor or a room or something of that nature, and so they are very often walking pretty close to the walls. So if things are sticking out more than that, they could walk into them if they are kind of out in midair like that.

On the next slide, there is another image. I kind of like to show both these images. Sometimes one makes more sense to one person than another. But this image also shows a gentleman navigating down a hallway with a long cane, and they are showing a number of elements that are protruding from the wall, and they are all done correctly. In the foreground, there are a couple of cantilevered drinking fountains that are hanging out in midair there, but they are talked back into a little alcove so they don't protrude. So this gentleman isn't going to just walk right into them. There is a fire extinguisher cabinet and a light fixture that are protruding, but not much, just a couple of inches from the wall. Then there's a sign that's over 80 inches, it's overhead, and so it can protrude because it's high enough that the gentleman's not going to walk into it.

On this next slide, talking about protruding objects, these things that are hazardous for people who are blind or have low vision, sometimes can implicate maintenance issues. So these couple of images here just illustrate a couple of points in that one image, the one on the right, is of an open staircase, the underside of this staircase is open space, and so they have figured out at what point this underside of this staircase reaches that point of 80 inches above the floor, and they have built out a little bit of fencing down underneath there so this woman here who is navigating with a cane, she's going to detect that little bit of fence before she gets to that point where she bumps her head on that open staircase, and that's going to alert her to go around that area. And the other image shows a gentleman walking along a sidewalk, and there's a maintenance worker there who is trimming some tree branches that have grown over the circulation area there, the sidewalk that's leading up to this business. So again, another good reminder of a simple maintenance issue, something like trimming vegetation that might otherwise -- an individual who is blind might walk right into that branch.

So on these next images, on slide 45, these are just a couple of examples of certain types of issues that we tend to see with protruding objects, things like televisions and monitors mounted on walls or hanging from ceilings, and sometimes they are sticking out pretty far, they are up in midair, there's nothing underneath them. Light fixtures, shelves that are sort of floating shelves, and so these kinds of things are sometimes overlooked, and so we encourage folks to look out for these sorts of things and think about if you couldn't see and you were moving around your facility, would you maybe bump into something like this?

Now I think Jennifer is going to talk a little bhit about accessible routes.

Jennifer Perry

Thank you, and I just realized Nancy says Roots, and I say ROUTS,. But Nancy is right. I can't say "root." I am trying to. My body wants to say "route."

I want to make it clear that the minimum clear width of an accessible route is 36 inches. There are instances where, for a short distance, it doesn't exceed 24 inches. You can reduce that clear width down to 32 inches minimum, which might be useful, particularly in an older building, if you have some kind of load-bearing wall that limits your consistent clear width of 36 inches you can do so as long as you don't go down to less than 36 inches clear width.

Ideally, you will always have more than 36 inches. Remember, this is a minimum clear width requirement. More space is always going to be better. But we also are obligated to let you know what the minimum requirements are, so that's 36 inches.

In the photo you see here, this is a typical aisle in the store. Looks great. We certainly have more than 36 inches provided here, so it's going to be easily navigated by somebody using a mobility device.

Where things can get trickier, particularly in stores where you might have a series of aisles, perhaps something like a grocery store or that kind of setup, and if you are even in a setup with a number of aisles in an even smaller type of building, you want to be mindful that somebody is going to be making turns, maybe at the end of an aisle, up and down, and they are making turns around obstructions that are less than 4 feet wide, that's a really tight turn if you are using a mobility device. So if you only are providing somebody with 36 inches of clear width, as shown in the figure on the right side of the slide right now, to make a turnaround something that's less than four feet wide, they are going to need a little bit of extra room at the top of that room for maneuverability. They are going to need at least 5 feet. This is important because if you have other sales, you know, merchandise or racking or shelving, you want to be mindful that somebody still has that five feet of clearance that they would need at the top of that turn independent of that shelving or merchandise.

On the left side, the figure that you see is showing if you you just can't provide that five feet of clearance, if somebody were to make that turn around an object, again, less than 48 inches in width, you can -- you know, you have to have at least 48 inches where somebody would make that turn. If you increase the width of an aisle from 36 inches minimum to 42 inches. Something to think about, the placement of your racking systems and merchandise, because they can affect the ability for someone to navigate throughout your store.

These are a few of the more common problems that you -- you know, we probably all encounter every day. So on the far left, we have some grocery carts set up. Assuming that our accessible parking was located on the other side on the left side, I guess I should say, of this parking lot and you then follow a path of travel across the parking lot to get into the store, we have a bunch of problems. Most of them are shopping cart related. Again, it just goes right back to that maintenance issue that we discussed. If this is an accessible route of travel, we have to be sure that operationally we are addressing potential problems for people with disabilities.

In the middle of the slide, we have a photograph of -- it's a tossup, could or could not be an accessibility issue. Fundamentally, you have to be aware of your placement of things. In this case, on the floor there's a newspaper racking system that we probably do have at least 36 inches of clear width, so technically we are not in violation of the ADA standards. We'd have an accessible route to get around that newspaper racking system. But I just want to mention it because is that where it has to go? Even though 36 inches might just be provided on the money, we certainly want to be aware that for somebody with a larger mobility device, it's probably not the best placement for that piece of furniture.

Then on the far right, we have all seen this. We can't talk about maintenance without talking about when you go into a store and it's just a mess. There's merchandise that hasn't been replaced. I am not placing blame on how the merchandise gets there, but certainly if you are somebody with a disability, if merchandise is cluttering up the aisles, it can make your ability to shop, you know, impossible.

So our accessible route, we talked about the clear width of 36 inches. There's other requirements in ADA standards for an accessible route, and one of them is addressing changes in level when they occur along an accessible route of travel. In this instance here, we have a new outdoor patio seating area that had been poured. Unfortunately, there is no accessible route to get to it because the change in level here was over an inch. You can't have a cert Cal change in level like that in excess of a half an inch unless it's beveled, and in this case, it was not. It's a straight vertical change in level. So you want to be aware of those types of situations because they can create inaccessible path of travel.

You also want to be aware -- and this can be a maintenance issue, particularly in the northeast, Mid-Atlantic states, after winter passes and everything starts to fall out, you might find sidewalks, curb cuts, asphalt, all kinds of problems could be created that did not exist last fall. From a maintenance perspective, looking at the condition of things like your sidewalks, particularly gaps that might be created, such as what you see here, is another maintenance aspect to be aware of.

So the problem with this accessible route would be if we had to use this sidewalk, perhaps to get from our accessible parking up into the sidewalk to get to the entrance of the building, we have an inch-wide opening here, and technically that opening cannot exceed a half an inch. You'd also want to try to orient those openings where they have to occur, such as in greats, so that the long dimension is perpendicular to the dominant direction of travel. And the reason you want to do that is because if you do not, if somebody is perhaps using a cane or a walker or a wheelchair, those kinds of openings, particularly if it's an inch wide, can entrap the front casters on a wheelchair, as I said, or canes or walkers, so they can be difficult.

So to kind of wrap things up, Nancy and I thought we'd talk about some more common issues that come about. Here are the items we are going to address. I am going to start with sales and service counters. And when you have a business, if you have sales and service counters, at least one of each type has to be accessible. Now, there is an exception if you have a smaller business with selling space under 5,000 square feet, but no more than one of your checkout aisles is required to be accessible. But otherwise, there's a table similar to the parking table Nancy showed you earlier, based on how many aisles per distinct area where the checkout aisles are located, how many then have to be accessible?

When we talk about an accessible sales or service counter, that, of course, means somebody has to have the ability to physically get to that counter. So it has to be located on an accessible route. For sales and service counters, you are permitted to have either a parallel or a forward approach to that counter. Parallel approach means you are pulling up adjacent to the counter in a parallel position. Forward approach means that you are approaches a counter kind of head on with clearance underneath the counter for your knees and your toes. That's known as a front approach. The ADA standards also address the height of counters. So for checkout counters, we have 38 inches maximum with 2 inches of edge protection, and for sales and service counters, 36 inches maximum. Also be aware that check writing surfaces, where provided, are limit today 36 inches maximum.

Here are some examples of typical sales or service counters where we see we clearly have an accessible approach on the left, accessible route to get to. Our concession counters, again, these would be limited to a maximum of 36 inches in height, and we have accessible portions of counters in both of these instances.

How about this one? Here we have, obviously, a service counter. We have a higher portion, and then we also have a lower portion. The problem with the lowered portion is that somebody decided to use that as the area to display, you know, all kinds of brochures, promotional materials, things of that nature, which is never a good idea. So you want to make sure that you are providing equivalent service at your accessible portion of the counter just as you are to that higher portion of the counter if you have one. So don't use the accessible counter surface for storing items or merchandise.

Nancy, I think I am going to pass it back to you for work surfaces and dining surfaces.

Nancy Horton

Thanks, Jennifer. We want to make a distinction between dining and work surfaces because they are a little different from sales and service counters. So when we have dining and work surfaces, 5% of them need to be accessible. Again, key component, accessible route. Need to be able to approach that space. And there needs to be a forward approach, a parallel approach where you can pull up alongside of that surface, that doesn't work for dining and work surfaces like it can for sales and service counters where there are just some minimal transactions going on. If you are going to be really eating or drinking or performing some type of work, it needs to have a forward approach so someone can pull forward and be facing that space head on with space for knee and toe clearance. And the surface, a little bit lower, just a couple of inches lower than what we can have at a sales and surface counter, that 34 inches maximum.

This image on slide 57 shows a nice table that's got nice table height. It's got knee and toe clearance. Individual using a wheelchair or a scooter could pull up to that, pull under, have their knee and toe space.

On this image, on slide 58, just a couple of images to sort of get you thinking about certain types of common problems that we sometimes see. On the left we've got some picnic tables, and there's a nice accessible route here, a nice, smooth concrete pathway, but nothing that connects to any of these picnic tables that are there so an individual could get to and pull up to any of these picnic tables.

The image on the right, these very small pedestal-style outdoor tables, the tabletops are so small, the pedestal bases are so large that these tables probably do not provide appropriate knee and toe clearance so an individual could pull up underneath that.

And then on slide 59, this is just another illustration that we thought might be helpful in sort of illustrating that distinction between dining and work surfaces, which need to be just a couple of inches lower and need to provide that forward approach aand knee and toe clearances, and sales and service counters, which can be 36 inches maximum, a couple inches higher, and can provide either a forward approach with knee and toe clearance or a parallel approach for someone to pull up alongside.

So this image here, wanted to talk a little bit about self-service stations because that's a common thing we see in a lot of types of stores and restaurants, where people can serve themselves. These places need to have approach, and things that people need to be able to reach, they need to be within reach ranges, so things like tableware and condiments and so forth. And we've got just a couple of images here that I think are really helpful to sort of illustrate forward reach. If there is no object strox, a wheelchair user can approach something head on and reach things between 15 and 48 inches. If the thing that needs to be reached is over an obstruction, there's a shelf or a counter or something of that nature, then that reach range changes a little bit, and things need to be a little bit lower.

Side reach is similar. The basic reach range is the same, but obstructions, you know, cabinets and things of that nature can change the reach range again.

Wanted to touch for just a moment on dressing rooms, the types of stores that have dressing rooms. We want to see 5% or at least 1 of each type in each cluster. Some stores are clusters of different -- or different types of dressing rooms -- men, women, what have you, or different areas. Again, we need an accessible route, an accessible door or doorway. We need turning space within a dressing room, so someone using a mobility device can maneuver around. We need things like coat hooks or shelves to be there within reach. And we need an accessible bench. Accessible benches have a certain -- have certain dimensions, they are a minimum of 42 inches long and 20 inches -- 20 to 24 inches deep, 20 minimum, 24 maximum depth. And we need a clear space, a 30 by 48 inch -- this is our standard clear floor space for wheelchair users, someone using a mobility device, to be able to locate themselves, position themselves, and that space needs to be oriented with the long dimension perpendicular to the short side of the bench so the individual can position themselves adjacent to the bench and make a lateral sort of sideways transfer onto the bench. And benches need to have back support.

So in this slide, this image is giving us an illustration. This is another what's wrong with this picture picture. This bench in a dressing room, very nice-looking dressing room here, but it has grab bars all along the wall on all sides, on both the back and next to this bench, which is in a corner. So once someone is sitting on this bench, there's going to be a grab bar right behind their back, right jutting into their back, so they can't really lean back in a stable, comfortable way against the wall if they need some support in sitting up and changing clothes or whatever. So they had a good idea to provide some grab bars for support in using the bench, but where they are placed actually makes it less than comfortable. And so with that, I am going to kick it back to Jennifer to wrap up for us.

Jennifer Perry

Thank you, Nancy.

So far, Nancy and I have really focused on physical accessibility features that you should take into consideration when you are thinking about barrier removal and readily achievable steps that you can take to improve accessibility. But we would be remiss if we didn't also mention some of the things that are kind of beyond the building, many of which are operational issues, and the ADA absolutely impacts some of these. So this includes things like looking at your businesses, you your policies, your practices, and your procedures, and seeing if any of those might be problematic in terms of access for people with disabilities. This would include things such as permitting service animals in your place of business, even if you have a no pets policy. It can also include things like allowing a companion to assist someone with a disability if they need that assistance in a dressing room situation, where you might normally say no, that's against our policy, amending that policy for the benefit of someone with a disability is expected under the ADA.

You also might want to think about are you communicating effectively with people who might have speech, hearing, or visual disabilities, thinking about effective communication. That might be something as simple as reading labels or a price tag for a customer who is blind or having a pen and paper nearby so you could exchange notes with somebody who might be deaf, purchasing assistive listening devices, but examining how can you provide adequate services for people with these types of disabilities.

And then also looking at if you have annual online presence, are you providing equal opportunities to those services through your website? Is it accessible, as are your mobile apps?

I want to circle back to a point I made early on, that is the percentage of people with disabilities is about 18% of the population currently. As baby boomers age, many of them might age into disability. So a lot of these features that we have shared with you today and discussed are certainly ADA requirements, but they are also good business sense because we are going to be see the disability population certainly increasing as baby boomers age. And the accessibility benefits for older adults are extensive. So just to kind of recap some of the things Nancy and I stress, things like accessible parking. Ensure that your customers have the strength they need to shop, go out to eat. Provide clear, wide paths. Provide access so you can sell your goods and services. Be aware that minimum-weight doors with accessible hardware provide easy access. Obviously, we mentioned automatic power assist doors, while not required by the ADA standards, they certainly are going to be helpful to everyone, including moms with strollers, delivery personnel, many of us. And even thinking about things beyond the ADA, your lighting that you provide. Is that adequate for people? Making sure you are using large print on your materials and your brochures, and again, looking at your websites for accessibility.

So Nancy and I have a few links we've included here. There is a welcome information including fact sheets, the United States Access Board, their website is here, and they have, again, a number of informative materials on their website that can help you better understand particularly a lot of the physical accessibility issues that we discussed today. If you are interested in learning more about website accessibility, I would certainly encourage you to contact your local ADA center. You can also visit the World Wide Web Consortium for information on that aspect. With that, I think, Peter, I am going to pass it back to you to see if we have any questions.

Peter Berg

We have questions. Thank you, Jennifer and Nancy, for a lot of information in a short amount of time, so thank you very much for all of that valuable information.

Before I get the operator to ask folks on the phones for questions, beginner question. Where does a store start? Where do they begin? If they haven't done anything or they've just recently opened a business in an existing facility, where does a business start?

Jennifer Perry

Nancy, I can adjust this one if you like.

Nancy Horton


Jennifer Perry

The Department of Justice did lay out those four recommended priorities. If you aren't sure where to start, you are that business owner looking around and not quite sure where to start, the first thing you want to consider is do you have an accessible approach of entrance to your place of business. The second priority would be if somebody can't get through your front door, can they get to your goods and your services? Third priority would be toilet rooms. And then other miscellaneous features. That's kind of the ranking, if you will, that fur not sure where to start, that's a good guide to use.

Peter Berg

Excellent as a starting point. Very good. Question about application of Title III we got in here electronically. A question we get frequently. How do barrier removal requirements apply to churches or places like the questioner gave the example of VFW, I think veterans of foreign wars, I think that's across the country. Does the ADA apply to the churches, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and then a separate question along the same line is does the ADA apply to commercial facilities -- office buildings or warehouses?

Nancy, I will go to you for that one, please.

Nancy Horton

Okay. That's a loaded question there. Title III does apply to commercial facilities, which the way that's defined under Title III would be private businesses that are not open to the general public, they would be things like factories and warehouses and things of that nature, but the only requirements that are applied to commercial facilities are in new construction and alterations of facilities. So they are going to have accessibility requirements for construction and alterations. They do not -- commercial facilities do not have the barrier removal obligation or any of the other kind of operational obligations that Jennifer touched on with the policies and so forth because they don't have customers going there. So Title III applies more narrowly to commercial facilities. Title III does not apply to religious entities at all in any way, shape, or form. They are broadly exempt. Everything they do, including things that might otherwise look like places of public accommodation, if a religious entity operates a day-care center or a thrift store or anything of that nature, that's all exempt if it's controlled by the religious organization. Private clubs are a little different. Certain types of private membership clubs are exempt from Title III. But some so-called clubs are really pretty much open to the general public, and if they are open to the general public pretty broadly or even occasionally, they are going to be applied Title III the same as public accommodations are, at least to the extent they are open to the general public. I hope that helps.

Peter Berg

That does. I will take a quick moment to plug one of the fact sheets that has been developed by the ADA National Network and is available at is on the application of the ADA and private clubs. I think that folks will find that document helpful.

Joe Lynn, can you give quick instructions?


Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, if you have a question at this time, please press the * and the number 1 on your touchtone telephone. If your question is answered or wish to be removed from the queue, press *.

One moment for questions.

Peter Berg

Okay. While we are waiting for those, I am going to go back to Jennifer. We had a couple on public right-of-way. And a business that needs to, in order to provide access, place a ramp into the public sidewalk. What are the issues there for the business as well as, you know, potentially for the local government entity?


Right. That certainly can get a little trickier. I would say starting with the obligations under the ADA as a business owner, if you would have to encroach on a public sidewalk, I certainly would make that attempt through local government dhoonls see if something can be done. Many municipalities throughout country have amended their normal policies and procedures, meaning restricting sidewalk width. They've amended their policies if it's necessary to provide access to a business for people with disabilities. So I would encourage you to still go through those proper channels and explain that you are try to go provide access. You may -- trying to provide access. You may need a variance or easement from local government to do so, but that local government entity also has obligations under the ADA to make sure that they are not enforcing any policies that can be discriminatory towards people with disabilities. So different municipalities handle those kinds of requests in different ways, but I would say that that coordination is something that you should try to reach out to local government and see if something can be accomplished.

Peter Berg

Great. Thanks.

A questioner wanted to know about a multilevel parking structure, for instance at a shopping center, and whether accessible parking is required on each level, and how do you calculate the number of required spaces? Is that on a level-by-level calculation, or is that a -- based on the number of spaces in the entire structure?

Nancy Horton

It usually is -- or often is based on the entire structure unless different levels or different areas are restricted maybe to different uses or something of that nature, in which case you may want to scope them separately to ensure that you are providing access for different user groups that may be restricted there.

When it comes to existing garages, sometimes you do not have vertical clearance for van accessible spaces, so van accessible spaces may need to be located only on one level if there is vertical clearance, and that can be a common issue with existing parking structures, so you may need to look at alternatives and so forth.

But sometimes the garage is all for one purpose, all for one place, everybody is going to one place, there is an elevator in the garage, there may be connection points from each level directly to facilities, you are going to have dispersed parking. So it really -- I don't think there's a one answer for that. You sort of have to look at the use of the garage, whether there are restrictions, and really where people are going to figure that out.

Peter Berg

Yeah, excellent. Thank you, Nancy.

And for the questioner about state and local governments, what we are talking about here, as Jennifer and Nancy talked about, businesses, public accommodation, commercial facilities, the requirements for state and local governments is a different requirement program access, so I would encourage you to reach out to your regional ADA Center to ask your specific questions.

Let me check real quick to see if we have any questions on the telephone at this time.


I am not showing any questions at this time.

Peter Berg

Okay. Jennifer, a question about application of the ADA, so the questioner -- I can't remember what slide was it -- it was the slide dealing with dining surfaces, and the question about the application of the ADA 2010 standards to fixed tables in dining versus movable tables, furniture, and how that plays out

Jennifer Perry

Generally if you have dining tables, you want to make sure that 5% of those are accessible to people with disabilities. So I think the one table that I think we had a picture of, it was from a popular coffee house type of establishment. Maybe not permanently fixed, but certainly an example of an accessible table that could be provided. So it's not as if all of the tables have to be accessible, but a minimum of 5% or at least one would have to be accessible for people with disabilities.

Peter Berg

Excellent. And a quick follow-up question about businesses that lease space from religious entities, so public accommodation operating their business out of a facility controlled by a religious entity.


Well, if the business that's renting is not itself is religious organization, they are going to be covered by Title III. The religious organization will not be covered as a landlord. Typically under Title III, both landlords, people who lease, lease to, or operate a place of public accommodation are all going to be covered. But a religious entity is never going to be covered by Title III under any circumstances. So the renter, though, might be covered.

Peter Berg

Jennifer, question for you. Where a business has made a determination that barrier removal cannot take place, talked a little bit about alternatives, what are the obligations of the business to make, you know, those alternative ways to get access to goods and services, make that information available to the public or to people with disabilities?

Jennifer Perry

Oh, that's a great question, and certainly the ADA regulation don't say how you should do that. I think every business is different in how you promote your goods or services is also going to vary. But I think if you are investigating alternative measures and you have a website, that would be a great place to start. Any of your flyers or promotional materials certainly would be a benefit. I would say any method of communication you are using to potential customers would be an opportunity to express in that platform what your accessibility alternatives are.

Peter Berg

Great. All right. We've gone a little bit past the bottom of the hour. I want to thank Nancy and Jennifer for their time and presentation today. Again, the session has been recorded. The archive will be available in a short while at For those of you that did not get your questions answered or you have additional questions, please reach out to your regional ADA Centers by calling 800-949-4232 or visiting Also be aware that March 19 will be our next audio conference session. You can get information on that upcoming session by visiting or giving us a call at 877-232-1990. Again, thanks to our speakers and thanks to all of you for joining us for today's ADA audio session. Thank you, and good day.


Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for participating in today's conference. This does conclude today's program, and you may all disconnect. Everyone have a great day.