Is Your Company in Compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act?

10741440_lThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been in effect for 25 years. Yet, many business owners still do not fully understand how it applies to them and what they must do to be incompliance with the act. It can certainly be confusing.

The employment provisions only apply to businesses with 15 or more employees, but the rules for “public accommodations” apply to businesses that provide goods or services to the public, regardless of the number of employees.

One of the biggest mistakes a company can make that can cause it to run afoul of the ADA is failing to establish clear policies and properly train employees and other staff.

When ADA Compliance Means Breaking the Rules

This is the area where businesses that are open to the public make the most mistakes. ADA compliance often means directly violating company policies, as they apply to people who are not disabled, and may even appear to violate certain laws.

The most common example is refusing to admit a service dog into a restaurant. Restaurant workers, and sometimes even owners, cite health codes as their excuse, but the ADA is very clear, “Establishments that sell or prepare food must allow service animals in public areas even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises.”

Something else to keep in mind – it is not your job to weed out the fakers. You cannot ask a person about their disability, nor can you require them to show proof that their dog is a trained service animal. When it comes to service dogs, you can only ask two questions:

  • Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
  • What work or task has the dog been trained to perform? (You cannot ask them to demonstrate.)

Employees should be instructed to be accommodating and they should be assured that they will not get in trouble or lose their job for breaking the “rules” to accommodate a disabled person. That could mean reading a menu to someone who is visually impaired, getting items down from a high shelf, or allowing someone to take a companion into the dressing room to assist them even when your store does not allow more than one person in a dressing room.

For more information on the ADA, visit them online at


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