ADA is the Americans with Disabilities Act that was originally passed by congress in 1990 and took effect in 1991. It requires small business and commercial property owners to make their businesses accessible to the disabled. I am not an expert in this area so this article is only intended to make you aware of the most basic requirements and changes to the law.
There are new requirements that were required to be implemented in March, 2012. These changes apply to new construction and remodeling. However, not everything is permanently grandfathered from the changes. Handicap parking spaces make a good example. The old requirement was for one space wide enough to accommodate a wheel chair lift for every eight spaces provided. The new standard is one disability space for every six regular spaces. Your parking lot is fine until you restripe it. At that time, you need to comply with the new regulations.
ADA requirements are not limited to physical access to the business. It also requires business policies and communications that are disability friendly. This is particularly relevant to hotels because the changes affect how disabled people are able to make reservations along with new physical requirements for hotel rooms.
Also, not all businesses are grandfathered from the changes. Specifically, recreational facilities such as swimming pools, play areas, exercise machines, miniature golf, and bowling alleys may need to make changes. These businesses were exempt from the 1990 law but are included in the new law. The law states the new requirements must be accomplished when "readily achievable". Readily achievable is defined as “easily accomplishable without much difficulty or expense.” This requirement is based on the size and resources of a business. So, businesses with more resources are expected to remove more barriers than businesses with fewer resources.
When you make alterations to your commercial property, you now are required to comply with the new regulations. Examples include restriping a parking lot, moving walls, moving a fixed ATM to another location, installing a new sales counter or display shelves, changing a doorway entrance, replacing fixtures, flooring, or carpeting. Normal maintenance, such as reroofing, painting, or wallpapering, is not an alteration.
Compliance is a good business decision. Amazingly, 50 million Americans have disabilities and baby boomers are developing similar, age related, limitations by the millions every year. Studies have shown that when these people find a disabilities friendly business, they tend to become long-term repeat customers.
To assist small businesses in complying with the ADA, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Code includes a Disabled Access Credit (Section 44) for businesses with 30 or fewer full-time employees or with total revenues of $1 million or less in the previous tax year. Eligible expenses may include the cost of undertaking barrier removal and alterations to improve accessibility, providing sign-language interpreters, or making material available in accessible formats such as Braille, audiotape, or large print.
Section 190 of the IRS Code provides a tax deduction for businesses of all sizes for costs incurred in removing architectural barriers in existing facilities or alterations. The maximum deduction is $15,000 per year.
If you want to learn more about making your commercial property accessible to the disabled, you may be interested in reading the U.S. Department of Justice's Primer for Small Business.
Author bio: Brian Kline has been investing in real estate for more than 30 years and writing about real estate investing for seven years. He also draws upon 25 plus years of business experience including 12 years as a manager at Boeing Aircraft Company. Brian currently lives at Lake Cushman, Washington. A vacation destination, a few short miles from a national forest in the Olympic Mountains with the Pacific Ocean a couple of miles in the opposite direction.