Small Businesses & the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
by CeceliaT, Community Moderator
- Created: August 2, 2011, 5:35 pm
- Updated: August 2, 2011, 5:50 pm
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
- ADA.gov, a website managed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), offers many resources, including an ADA Primer for Small Businesses; answers to commonly asked questions about service animals in places of business; and information on tax credits and deductions to help offset costs associated with new construction or alterations to existing facilities.
- The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and DOJ’s ADA Guide for Small Business provides information on architectural barriers and how to remove them.
- The online course, At Your Service: Welcoming Customers with Disabilities, discusses basic etiquette for interacting with a customer who has a disability.
- Disability.gov’s Small Business Resources section offers information on the ADA, as well as other resources for small business owners.
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
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.
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