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Small Businesses & the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

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Small Businesses & the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

By CeceliaT, SBA Official
Published: August 2, 2011 Updated: August 2, 2011

Today's Business Law Advisor is a guest post by Diana Zeitzer, Communications Director, Disability.gov

Twenty-one years ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. Yet, many small business owners still have questions about what the ADA is and the protections it offers individuals with disabilities.  

The ADA is a federal civil rights law that prohibits the exclusion of people with disabilities from everyday activities such as buying groceries from a store, seeing a movie in a theater or dining at a restaurant.  

On January 1, 2009, the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008 went into effect, making some major changes to the definition of “disability” under the ADA.  The ADAAA simplifies the determination of who has a disability, making it easier for people to establish that they are protected under the law.

How the ADA Impacts Small Businesses

 Title III of the ADA applies to private businesses of all sizes that provide goods or services to the public (also known as public accommodations).  There are several categories of public accommodations, including stores, restaurants, theaters, hotels, recreational facilities and others. Only private clubs and religious organizations are exempt from Title III, so if you own or operate a business that serves the public, the ADA applies to you!

Understanding Reasonable Accommodations

 Not only does the ADA apply to accommodating the disabilities of customers, it also requires that employers with 15 or more employees to provide “reasonable accommodations” for individuals with disabilities, unless it would cause undue hardship. So what exactly does that mean?

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a reasonable accommodation is “any change in the work environment or in the way a job is performed that enables a person with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities.”  Undue hardship focuses on the resources and circumstances of the employer in relationship to the cost or difficulty of providing the accommodation.  More specifically, it refers “not only to financial difficulty, but to reasonable accommodations that are unduly extensive, substantial or disruptive, or those that would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the business.”

The EEOC fact sheet, “Small Employers and Reasonable Accommodation” explains the three categories of reasonable accommodations:  changes to a job application process; changes to work environment or to the way a job is usually done; and changes that enable an employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment (i.e. training).

For more information on providing reasonable accommodations for an employee with a disability, contact the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) at 1-800-526-7234 or 1-877-781-9403 (TTY).  JAN provides free consulting services for employers, including one-on-one consultation about all aspects of job accommodations. You can also read JAN’s Employers' Practical Guide to Reasonable Accommodation under the ADA.

Where to Find Resources about the ADA & Small Businesses

Still have questions about the ADA? Call DOJ’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 1-800-514-0301 or 1-800-514-0383 (TTY).

Did you know all of the resources in this post can be found on Disability.gov? Visit Disability.gov to start your search!

About the Author:

Cecelia Taylor

SBA Official

CeceliaT is a moderator for the SBA Community. We appreciate your participation and feedback on how we can continually improve the community to meet your small business needs.

Comments:

I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic thanks for sharing.
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Great initiative it is going to be huge relief for small business people. (Thanks for reaching out about your recently moved comment on the SBA.gov Community. Youll note in the Rules of Conduct that to maintain quality of discussions, contributions that do not provide a substantive purpose or relevance will be removed. If you have additional commentary related to the discussion topic or blog post, youre welcome to post that along with your original comment. Thank you for your understanding and for joining us on the SBA.gov Community.)
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This is an excellent topic you are discussing about small business and the ADA. Truly informative blog. Thanks for sharing. This post was edited to remove a link. Please review our Community Best Practices for more information about how best to participate in our online discussions. Thank you.
awesome information on small businesses and the ADA.
That is some useful stuff. Thanks for all the passion to offer such useful information here. This post was edited to remove a link. Please review our Community Best Practices for more information about how best to participate in our online discussions. Thank you.
They are just great. So please keep writing and updating. I will let my all friends about this site. This post was edited to remove a link. Please review our Community Best Practices for more information about how best to participate in our online discussions. Thank you.
Well it is a great initiative. Really helpful for all the small business. This post was edited to remove a link. Please review our Community Best Practices for more information about how best to participate in our online discussions. Thank you.

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