NACS Webinar Prepares C-store Owners for New ADA Regulations
ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- The calendar is counting down to the date when updated Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations go into effect. On March 15, convenience store owners will face more than 450 changes in the law, according to today's NACS webinar, "Preparing for the New ADA Regulations," presented by Brad Gaskins and Larry McIntosh of the McIntosh Group LLC. The first thing retailers must keep in mind is that the ADA is a civil rights law, not a building code, the presenters emphasized. The original 1990 act was later amended with new standards that went into effect in early 2010. Between then and now, businesses could choose whether to meet the original or amended standards. Later this month, however, the amended standards become mandatory.
Although some retailers believe they are grandfathered in if they operate older businesses, this is not the case. The webinar proceeded to walk participants through the many aspects of a c-store that must comply with the amended ADA standards, both inside and out.
The key areas outside the store include slopes and ramps for wheelchair users; location of and accessibility to handicapped parking spaces; accessible routes between store entrances, public paths and on-site locations such as Redbox machines and dumpsters; and height and placement of fuel dispensers.
Parking spaces are a particular concern, as more than 95 percent of ADA-related lawsuits involve parking, the presenters noted. Other outdoor concerns are less obvious -- for example, it is now considered advisable to place a dedicated customer-support button on fuel dispensers rather than require handicapped customers to honk for assistance, as honking draws attention from non-employees.
Interior store areas that must comply include height, width and accessibility of counters; reach distance for beverage, cup and condiment dispensers; position of handlebars and tissue dispensers within bathrooms; fire alarms with visual components; and Braille signage on doors and ATMs.
If an area of the store does not comply with the ADA, simply placing a sign offering employee assistance is not enough, according to the presenters. This is only a good idea if an area is temporarily non-compliant, until it has reached full compliance.
To avoid ADA-related lawsuits, the McIntosh Group recommends a proactive risk management strategy through four steps:
• Know how you're doing.
• Develop a written implementation plan.
• Execute against the plan.
• Let the law be your guide.
The webinar presenters also recommended a core process that includes surveying a facility to determine its issues; developing a transition plan; creating a solution set that has priorities and consistency; proceeding with construction; and finally, certifying that solutions were implemented correctly. It is absolutely key that retailers ensure nothing went wrong in the process from design to implementation.
Although the process of becoming ADA-compliant may be daunting, and reaching compliance may take a great deal of planning depending on the state of the building, they said it should be a priority since all retailers are expected to take steps to improve their accessibility over time.