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The Ultimate ADA Checklist for Small Business Accessibility

The Ultimate ADA Checklist for Small Business Accessibility

By Jenny Barnes on Jan 03, 2024
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As a small business owner, you may be familiar with the phrase “reasonable accommodations.” It might bring to mind installing ramp access to your facility or modifying restrooms with wheelchair-accessible stalls. 

However, reasonable accommodations under the American Disabilities Act (ADA) apply to more than modifying physical spaces. Today, 13% of Americans are disabled, making it important that, as a small business owner, you understand ADA best practices and take steps to comply with ADA regulations. 

Fortunately, many changes small businesses can implement to make their operations more inclusive and accessible in compliance with ADA requirements are simple and budget-friendly. 

RELATED: Guide to Hiring Employees with Disabilities >>

What Is the ADA? 

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law to “establish a clear and comprehensive prohibition of discrimination on the basis of disability.” This civil rights bill includes four main provisions, called titles designed to prevent employment-related discrimination against those with disabilities and to provide access to state and local government services, public spaces and telecommunications. Titles I and III, non-discriminatory employment practices and public accommodations, are the primary provisions that may impact your small business.  

  • Title I

    Title I of ADA works to provide equal employment opportunities for anyone who has a disability. If you employ more than 15 people, you must take steps to accommodate disabled people during the hiring process and make reasonable on-the-job accommodations for disabled employees. Examples include providing a different application format to a candidate with a visual impairment whose screen reader doesn't work with your existing online application or providing extra time for an employee with dyslexia to take an online training course. 

  • Title III

    Title III of ADA works to prevent discrimination against those who are disabled when they visit a public accommodation – a place that serves the public. Specific examples of public accommodations include schools, restaurants, healthcare facilities, movie theaters and retail locations, but nearly all business locations are considered public accommodations. 

Considering that the ADA was written before websites were commonplace, courts for many years interpreted “places of public accommodation” to mean physical spaces. More recently, however, Title III has been used as a basis for lawsuits claiming that websites also are public accommodations. Such “surf-by lawsuits,” often filed by attorneys representing visually impaired individuals, rose exponentially in 2023

The ADA checklist below identifies some ADA-friendly changes and best practices you can follow – without breaking the bank – to help make your small business accessible to employees, customers and visitors with disabilities. 

Employee tardiness due to using the restroom and possible ADA accommodation.

Workplace Accessibility ADA Checklist

  • Job descriptions

    Write an inclusive job description by describing the end goal of the position rather than focusing on the specific tasks and how they are done. For example, change “must be able to stand for long periods of time” to “ability to remain at workstation for long periods of time.” 
  • Onsite meetings

    When conducting onsite meetings, consider if the space and size of the participating group necessitate using a microphone. Ensuring everyone can hear what’s being said is an easy-to-follow best practice. 
  • Work schedules

    Consider modified work schedules for those with disabilities, which allow these employees to be away from work for disability-related doctors’ appointments or treatments. For example, those receiving cancer care or attending physical therapy may need to be out of the office frequently and for extended periods of time. 

    In some cases, these individuals may simply need schedule flexibility that allows them to perform job tasks outside of standard business hours, when they have more availability. 
  • Policies

    Review your employee handbook to ensure it includes compliant policies, such as allowing an employee with a disability to bring a service animal to work. 
  • Employee education

    Invest in employee education about ADA accommodations. Educate your staff on basic ADA principles and requirements, types and uses of assistive devices and services and best practices for communicating and assisting people with disabilities. 

    Train your staff on how to interact respectfully and helpfully with colleagues or clients with disabilities so they can ably handle requests or complaints related to accessibility. Online training materials and tips are available through the ADA National Network and other national organizations. 

RELATED: ADA Compliance - The Rise of Surf-By Lawsuits >>

Physical Space Accessibility ADA Checklist

  • Exterior

    Check your building’s entrances for accessibility. Start at common arrival points like the parking lot or parking garage. 

    Check for barriers that would prohibit or make it difficult for someone using a wheelchair or motorized scooter to enter. 

    If your building has entrance ramps, regulations require that, for every inch in ramp height, there are 12 inches in the ramp’s length to provide an accessible slope
  • Interior

    Upon entering the building, consider the width of doors, height of door handles, availability of handrails, etc. If your customers approach a counter, determine how you might be able to provide a lower counter or a table for those in a wheelchair or motorized scooter. As you walk through your physical space, notice any tight spaces that may make turns difficult. 
  • Signs

    Display clearly labeled signs at entrances, exits, permanent rooms and restrooms. An ADA best practice is to include visual and tactile elements like braille when possible. 
  • Parking

    For every six parking spots, a business must provide one accessible parking spot that is wide enough to accommodate vans. 
  • Service dogs

    Allow service dogs to enter your facility. The ADA recognizes dogs as service animals, with guidelines on how the handler must leash, harness and tether them. 
  • Tenants

    If you lease your company’s space, you may not be able to influence the building owner to comply with ADA requirements. However, it’s in your best interest to bring areas of non-compliance to the landlord’s attention, considering that both an owner and tenant of a property can be liable for discrimination

The ADA and Service Animals in the Workplace

Website Accessibility ADA Checklist

Audit your website for ADA compliance. Considerations include: 

  • Colors

    Check color use on your small business website. Use high-contrast content and backgrounds. Also check for content that is only designated by color, which may not be readable for those who are color blind. 
  • Alt text

    Use alt text, which describes images and videos on a page. This descriptive text helps people with visual impairments understand what the image shows. 
  • Online forms

    Clearly label fields on forms that require information (such as credit card fields) so people can more easily understand and complete online forms. 
  • Website navigation

    Build your website so that keyboard navigation is an option. Mouse-only navigation sites may not be accessible for those with mobility impairments. 
  • Captions

    Include captions on the multi-media elements of your website for those with hearing disabilities. 

As a small business owner, consider what barriers you may need to remove and changes you may need to make to create an accessible environment for both employees and customers. Keep in mind that accessibility and reasonable accommodations pertain to several areas – workplace accessibility, physical space accessibility and digital accessibility.  

RELATED: Employment-Related Medical Exams Present Issues for Employers >>

Secure ADA Compliance with Expert Support from Axcet HR Solutions

Ensure ADA compliance and best practices with Axcet HR Solutions as your trusted advisor. Our comprehensive PEO services, backed by a team of certified HR consultants, equip you with the expertise you need for confident HR outsourcing. At Axcet, we're dedicated to helping your small business become a welcoming, inclusive environment for all employees and customers. Contact us today for the guidance and support that makes a difference.

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Written by Jenny Barnes

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