The  Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that was enacted in 1990 in an effort to reduce discrimination in the United States. The legislation, which is overseen by the Department of Justice (DOJ), requires businesses to make “reasonable accommodations” for people with disabilities, but what does that mean for you?

The ADA standards apply to small businesses, but you might not have to comply with all of the requirements, as there are certain exemptions and provisions throughout the ADA that may apply to you. 

However, it’s important to understand exactly which ADA requirements you need to follow, as your business could face fines if you don’t maintain ADA compliance. Here’s what you need to know to avoid any potential issues and keep things legal. 

Remember, this is not official legal advice. If you have concerns about any ADA compliance issues, it’s best to consult an employment lawyer. 

What to know about ADA compliance 

When it comes to small businesses, the two main areas of the ADA that you will typically focus on are Title I and Title III. Businesses with 15 or more employees are regulated under Title I, and business or nonprofit service providers that are public accommodations or that provide goods and services are covered under Title III. Title II covers state and local governments, or public entities. 

Title I compliance 

Under the ADA, you are considered a qualified employer if you:

  • are engaged in an industry affecting commerce
  • employ 15 or more workers every day
  • operate for at least 20 calendar weeks in the year. 

This means that if you have fewer than 15 full-time employees, the accessibility guidelines do not apply to you. 

For businesses that do have at least 15 employees, it is required under Title I that you provide individuals with disabilities an equal chance to benefit from employment-related opportunities available to others. 

Employers are also prohibited from discriminating against employees based on their disability. The law mandates that the business provide reasonable accommodations to ensure they are able to perform the duties their position requires. 

Title III compliance 

Title III focuses on your customers. Businesses that are considered to be “public accommodations,” or those who provide goods or services to the public, are prohibited from discriminating against customers with disabilities. This means you must make your establishment ADA accessible. 

The requirements laid out in Title III are to be followed by most businesses that serve the public, no matter the size of the establishment. Owners of these establishments are required to make every reasonable effort possible to accommodate and assist people with disabilities. 

Reasonable efforts include, but are not limited to: 

  • Establishing an accessible design in your business
  • Allowing service animals and mobility devices 
  • Adjusting the mode of communication
  • Removing physical barriers to existing structures if doing so is “readily achievable” 

“Readily achievable” means different things to different businesses, based on the size and resources available to them. If you have a larger entity, you’re expected to be more proactive about removing barriers than a smaller business with less resources. 

Website accessibility 

Although often overlooked by business owners, web content is another area that comes with accessibility standards. In fact, more than 240 businesses were sued in federal court in 2015 over web content accessibility compliance infractions. 

Websites that are considered accessible to people with disabilities should include captioned videos and images, as well as PDF versions of content that can be downloaded by someone who has low vision or utilizes an assistive technology device. 

It can be difficult to maintain ADA compliance in all areas of your business if you don’t have the necessary information or an HR rep onsite to help. Homebase customers who sign up for HRPro gain affordable access to certified advisors who can help you with ADA compliance—as well as any other HR topic—whenever you need them. Sign up today to get started!

Remember, this is not official legal advice. If you have concerns about any ADA compliance issues, it’s best to consult an employment lawyer.