A Small Business Guide To Staying Ada Compliant

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 U.S 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.

In addition, your business could face a lawsuit if someone with a disability feels that they’ve been discriminated against. 

If you find all of this information overwhelming, don’t worry, we’re here to help you understand the ADA and how it applies to your small business. 

In this article, we’ll discuss what exactly the ADA is and what you need to know to avoid any potential issues and keep things legal. 

Without further ado, let’s 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. 

What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities and access as everyone else. 

The legislation covers a wide range of disabilities, including visual and auditory impairments, physical limitations, mental illness, intellectual disabilities, and medical conditions.

The act seeks to ensure that people with disabilities are given the necessary tools through reasonable accommodations in order for them to have the same experience as someone who isn’t disabled.

Keep in mind that ADA requires the Department of Justice to provide technical assistance to businesses, State and local governments, and individuals regarding the law so if you have any questions, you can contact them for detailed information.

What do the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) entail?

The ADA requires that businesses provide disabled people with the services and accommodations necessary to ensure they have the same experience as everyone else.

The ADA limits what kind of “reasonable accommodations” are necessary for people with disabilities.  

The law outlines general guidelines that businesses need to follow in order to provide equal opportunities for all employees and customers. Some examples include providing wheelchair access, braille signage, sign language interpreters, and accessible parking spaces for individuals with disabilities.

Businesses are typically required to provide reasonable accommodations for disabled customers, but that doesn’t mean you need to make changes that will disrupt your business model. 

For example, if your existing facilities make it impossible to comply with the ADA, like if you can’t make changes to an existing structure(architectural barrier) like a mall, then you might be exempt from the requirements.

However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to make the addition if at all possible. If your business can make changes to make it more accessible and remove barriers, then the ADA will require that you do so.

What to know about ADA compliance for small business

When it comes to small businesses, the two main areas of the ADA regulations 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. 

According to the ADA, it is illegal to ask an applicant if they’d like to disclose disability or illness information. 

Employers are not allowed to ask for this information unless it is directly related to the job the person will be doing, and no medical questions can be asked until a conditional offer of employment has been made.

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 (wheelchair ramps, lifts, and railings)
  • Adjusting the mode of communication (sign language interpreters)
  • Removing physical barriers to existing structures if doing so is “readily achievable” (this may include new construction or changing entrances)
  • Making sure restrooms are accessible

“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 barrier removal than a smaller business with fewer resources.

Website accessibility 

Although often overlooked by business owners,  especially small 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. This will help to ensure your business is compliant with Title III.


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. 

The process can be particularly overwhelming for small businesses that are just getting started or may not have much insight into the best practices that will ensure compliance. 

That’s why we decided to help our customers who sign up for HRPro, gain again affordable access to certified advisors who can help you with ADA compliance—as well as any other HR topic—whenever they need them.  It’s like having an HR depot right in your own office. Click here to sign up for HRPro today!


Frequently Asked Questions:

Do small businesses need to be ADA compliant?

Yes. Small businesses must follow the same rules as larger establishments in regard to compliance.

Who is exempt from ADA requirements?

Organizations that are not considered public accommodations like religious organizations, private clubs, and other historically exempt from federal civil rights laws entities such as senior housing complexes, day-cares, etc.

What happens if you are not ADA compliant?

It is a violation of federal law to deny people with disabilities the same level of access enjoyed by able-bodied individuals. If you do not make your business ADA compliant, you could be facing civil action and ordered to pay steep fines. 

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

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