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How Does ADA Compliance Affect Existing Facilities?

How Does ADA Compliance Affect Existing Facilities?

15 November 2022 By Admin

One of the most misunderstood parts of ADA compliance we come across as an ADA contractor is how it affects existing facilities. Many business owners and property managers believe that the Americans With Disabilities Act only applies to new builds and renovation work. By this logic, anything built before the passing of the ADA would not need to be accessible. However, this is not the case, and the ADA requirements still apply to existing facilities where barriers to accessibility must be removed. It is a complex part of the law and can be challenging to understand. That is why you need to work with an experienced ADA contractor to ensure that your building is fully compliant.

Understanding the ADA & Existing Facilities

As you probably already know, the Americans With Disabilities Act, or ADA as it is commonly known, is designed to prohibit discrimination against people who have disabilities. There are five Titles within the legislation, each dealing with a different area of discrimination. As an ADA contractor, the part we work closely with is Title III which prohibits discrimination by requiring the removal of any physical barriers to accessibility wherever it isis readily achievable. The critical part for existing buildings is the phrase ‘readily achievable.' What exactly does that mean?

When the ADA states that barrier removal should be readily achievable, they are saying that it should be reasonably easy for a business to accomplish the task with the help of an ADA contractor. It should not put undue stress on the business because of difficulty and expense. Various factors can be taken into consideration when determining whether or not barrier removal is considered readily achievable. Some of these factors include:

  • The cost of the required barrier removal
  • The financial resources available to the business or property owner
  • The number of employees in the facility
  • The impact barrier removal would have on the business’s expenses and/or resources
  • The impact on day-to-day operations for the business
  • The overall financial impact of barrier removal.

An ADA contractor can help you to understand the areas of your building that are currently not compliant and advise whether or not they are readily achievable for your business. However, it is essential to note that if you receive an ADA complaint and have to go to court, these same factors will be used to determine if you should have been able to make the necessary adjustments to be ADA compliant. However, the burden of proof could be on you to prove to the courts that barrier removal is not readily achievable. As an ADA contractor, we often find it more cost-effective to bite the bullet and make the required changes rather than fight an ADA lawsuit in Federal court.

Which Regulations Apply to Existing Facilities?

The United States Department of Justice, or DOJ, enforces the ADA. They do this using the ADA Title III regulations, which were created in 1991 and then updated in 2010. These Standards for Accessible Design include 21 different steps that can be taken to remove barriers to accessibility. An ADA contractor can help you complete these steps wherever necessary to make your existing facility fully ADA compliant.

A few of these steps to remove barriers to accessibility include:

  • Implementing curb cuts on sidewalks and at entrances
  • Making doors wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs and other mobility aids
  • Switching hardware on your doors to accessible models
  • Creating accessible toilets and washrooms
  • Adding appropriate ADA signage
  • Removing high pile and low-density carpeting that might hamper the use of mobility aid

The Standards for Accessible Design also give some priorities that can help you to determine the areas of your property that you should tackle first. The most critical areas to address are those providing access to places of public accommodation. This includes access to the property from public sidewalks, parking, and public transport. Some examples might consist of adding an accessible ramp at your entrance, widening doors, or creating accessible parking bays in your parking lot.

What is Safe Harbor Provision?

A safe harbor provision is also included in the ADA Title III regulations. This states that if a facility or any of its elements were built or altered before March 15, 2012, and it complies with the 1991 standards for Accessible Design, it does not need revising to meet 2010 standards. It is important to note that some facilities were not initially included in the 1991 standards making them unable to fall under the safe harbor provision. These include:

  • Residential Property & Dwelling Units
  • Amusement Rides
  • Recreational Boating Facilities
  • Golfing Facilities
  • Play Areas
  • Swimming Pools

If your existing building needs to do some work to be ADA compliant, the best course of action is to get in touch with an experienced ADA contractor to discuss your options and obligations.


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Why Wait to be "Forced" into ADA Compliance. If you are a public business or public property owner, save money, lawsuits, time and headaches by being prepared and avoiding it all in the first place. It’s time to call in the ADA pros. Use Protrk, an ADA construction expert, to Get it Done Right Prior to Forced Compliance. 

Call 415-813-9877 today or visit www.protrkconstruction.com for more details.


Being involved in ADA design and construction has given me the opportunity to help a lot of business owners and commercial property owners prevent costly ADA compliant lawsuits.

Mike Schaeffer

Owner & Founder Protrk®


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