Redevelop - Revitalize - Remember the ADA
ADA for Existing Buildings
Distinctive charm and projects in the pipeline: this describes many areas experiencing resurgence - take Jacksonville’s Springfield area, for instance, – who are looking to enhance their commercial appeal by becoming an urban neighborhood destination. The excitement of being on the cusp of a revitalization movement must be tempered with the practicalities of making an existing building fit the needs of today’s consumers and clients. One such practicality is understanding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and using the guidelines to create an accessible experience for all.
Existing buildings fall into their own category in the ADA Standards. It is important to understand that there are no “exception” or “grandfather” provisions for older properties. Also, it is important for tenants to understand their role in ADA compliance. A remarkable number of leases omit language giving responsibility for compliance with access laws and regulations and/or lawsuits for non-compliance. Landlords and tenants both may be held liable in a suit if responsibility is not charged beforehand. This is especially worrisome as there is generally no limit to the number of times a business owner (and landlord) can be sued.
Once lease language is in place, it is time to roll up the shirt sleeves and begin making the vision a reality. When a small business makes an alteration to an existing building, accessibility must be integrated into the alteration to the maximum extent feasible. What are examples of alterations? As can be seen by the list below, alterations are many of the tasks a small business owner would undertake to create the business’ brand unique atmosphere:
Installing a new sales counter or display shelves
Changing a doorway entrance
Replacing fixtures, flooring, or carpeting
Moving a fixed ATM to another location
Restriping the parking lot
Accessibility should be integrated into the process when the business owner is staring at bare walls and imagining the potential. Three key phases are assessing your facility, training your staff, and exploring your options for tax deduction and credits for accessibility improvements. Having an ADA Consultant on your team helps make the dream an accessible reality – not a legal nightmare.