FAQ

ADA4CAAccess Compliance FAQ’s

For many business and property owners, the requirements for accessibility compliance in California can appear to be complicate to the point of being completely overwhelming.  While many people understand that their business or property that’s open tot he public, needs to comply with the ADA, few if any know what the specific requirements for accessibility compliance are, let alone how the codes and laws apply to their business or property.  To help business and property owners understand the requirements and their responsibilities for accessibility compliance, we have prepared the following frequently asked questions that address accessibility compliance issues in California.

Q:  How do I find out what the accessibility requirements are for my business or property in California?
A: The requirements for accessibility compliance are determined by the type of facility, the ownership entity and the date of construction.  Most commercial properties need to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibiltiy guidelines (ADAAG) and the requirements of the 2010 California Building Code (CBC).

Q:  My building was constructed prior to 1992, (when the ADA went into effect) and there may be part of the building which do not meet current accessibility requirements (restrooms with less than adequate wheelchair turning space, non-compliant parking stalls etc.), what do I need to do to comply with California accessibility requirements?
A:
Our best recommendation would be to have a CASp professional conduct an inspection to determine what, if anything meeds to be corrected.  At a minimum, it’s important to do what’s possible to facilitate access to your place of business.  It’s important to note, particularly for older buildings, that it may not be possible to provide full compliance due to the configuration and physical constraints of the existing building.  There are provisions with both the ADA and the CBC which allows for issues which may not be either “readily achievable” or “technically feasible.”  Obtaining a CASp inspection and making a good faith effort to address accessibility issues will provide your business with the best possible protection from a potential ADA lawsuit.

Q:  I’m planning to remodel part of my business and the building it occupies, what do I need to do to comply with California accessibility requirements?
A:
It depends on the scope of the remodel.  If the construction value of the remodel exceeds $130,000, California code requires an upgrade to full accessibility compliance for the building entry, path of travel to the area of remodel and restrooms serving the remodel.  If the value of construction is less than $130,000, then 20% of the value of construction must be spent on accessibility upgrades, addressed in the following order:

  • accessible entrance
  • accessible route to area of remodel
  • at least one accessible restroom for each sex
  • accessible telephones
  • accessible drinking fountains, and when possible
  • accessible parking, storage and alarms

Q:  I know that my business needs to comply with the California Accessibility requirements, but in the current economic climate, I just can’t afford to make whatever improvements might be required.
A:
Yes, times are tough, but the cost associated with protecting your business from an ADA lawsuit are insignificant in comparison to the potential exposure of attorney fees, court costs, correction expenses and damages associated with a potential ADA lawsuit.

Q:  When my retail store was constructed in 2002, I understood that it met the accessibility requirements in effect at that time.  I also understand that the requirements for accessibility compliance have changed since then.  Am I required to update or make changes to my store to meet current requirements:
A:
If your store met the accessibility requirements in effect in 2002 (which it most likely did, if the store was constructed according to code), then you should be fine.  Any subsequent changes or revisions would have to comply with the accessibility requirements in effect at the time of the revision.

Q:  My business has receive a notice of non-compliance from an attorney who is demanding several thousand dollars because of an accessibility compliance issue.  What should I do?
A:
If you receive a complaint and demand for money regarding an accessibility issue, State law requires that the person issuing the complaint also provide a form indicating, “You are not required to pay any money unless and until a court finds you liable.  Moreover, RECEIPT OF THIS ADVISORY DOES NOT NECESSARILY MEAN YOU WILL BE FOUND LIABLE FOR ANYTHING.”  You have the right to seek assistance or advise, regarding a complaint or demand for money, for any person of your choosing and no one may instruct you otherwise.  Your best interest may be served by seeking legal advise or representation by an attorney.  the local bar association in your county can provide information on attorneys familiar with disability law in your area.

Q:  What can I do to protect my business from an ADA lawsuit:
A:
The best and most cost effective way to protect your business from an ADA lawsuit, is to have a Certified Access Specialist (CASp) inspect your property and provide you with a report identifying any issues requiring correction and a certificate that confirms your property has been inspected for access compliance.  It’s important to understand that both the ADA and the CBC only require correction of issues which are “readily achievable”, which is defined as, “easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense.”  In addition to identifying “readily achievable” issues for correction, a CASp inspection and certification, provides time to make corrections and protects a business owner by establishing an intent to address required accessibility issues.

Q:  What is the enforcement mechanism for accessibility compliance in California:
A:
Unfortunately, the primary enforcement mechanism for accessibility compliance in California is litigation by private individuals.  California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act makes any violation of the ADA a civil rights violation with a minimum statutory penalty of $4,ooo, plus attorney’s fees.  Some attorneys, in fact, make their living specializing in ADA lawsuits.  A well know Sacramento attorney has filed over 1,000 ADA lawsuits, receiving average settlements of between $4,000 and $6,000 per case.

Q:  What’s the potential downside of not addressing accessibility issues at my business?
A:
The potential downside starts with a minimum of $4,ooo out of pocket in statutory damages, with additional attorney fees, before you can even start addressing issues that need to be corrected.  A CASp inspection initiated prior to an ADA lawsuit will keep that $4,000 in your pocket.

Q:  What is a CASp inspection and what are the benefits of having a CASp inspection of my business or property?
A:
A CASp inspection identifies “readily achievable” accessibility issues for correction which are, “easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense.”  A CASp inspection also provide a reasonable time frame to address any required issues.

117 Responses to FAQ

  1. Madelyn C Reitz says:

    We have a 1920 home and are in the process of remodeling the kitchen. We just found out the floor plan that we had and will put back in does not have enough space between two cabinet ..we had 30 inchs and the ADA code wants 36inches. The problem is the doors leading into the kitchen are 27 inchs and 30 inches so we would be unable to get a wheelchair in that room. We have gutted the kitchen already but would not have done it it we had knowen because some of the appliences that we had and still want will not fit now. Is there a waiver for older homes? Thank you for your help.

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      Is this a private residence? If so, the ADA requirements don’t apply to a private residence. If you are going to make it available on the rental market, then some ADA requirements may apply.

      • john kovac says:

        If private residence will be rented what ADA requirements may apply?
        Thank you.

        • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

          Typically the ADA does not apply to private residences. The ADA, in the most general sense, applies to places offering goods and services to the public. I hope that helps.

  2. Dwight Busalacchi says:

    A couple of years ago I built a 3000 square foot Ag building to commercial standards. This was done encase we decided to start a winery. This building will not be for available for public use, only private use. Do I need to make my private bathroom ADA compliant?

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      If it’s something that employees will have access to, I would strongly advise you to make the restroom accessible.

  3. dean brown says:

    I am building a new Senior apt and have four HC units. The microwave/hood control is not reachable. CBC 1136.A.2 says that there is an exception and that I do not have to provide a lower wall switch and that I can install the appliance which have controls on the appliance. Is there a ADA code that I must follow and not the CBC code.

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      First of all – the disclaimer – I’m not a code official & so anything I say is essentially my opinion and cannot be used as anything other than my opinion.

      From what I see in the CBC, I think you are technically correct, and I also don’t see anything in the 2010 ADA re: this subject. Having said that, I personally think it’s in your interest to provide accessible controls f/ the fans.

      I would encourage you to talk w/ your local building official.

  4. Sarah Reid says:

    I am looking at locations to rent/lease to start a new retail business. The one I am most interested in is NOT ADA compliant. Would my business be liable or would the building owner be liable if I had my business there? Is this a deal breaker?

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      It depends on a number of things.
      How old is the building?
      What type of business are you starting?
      What are the accessibility issues that you are aware of?
      How much are you going to spend on renovations to accommodate your business?

      • Henry Valdez says:

        Hello,
        I have a similar issue. The building was built in 1983 and I plan on operating a restaurant. Would I be force to comply with current ADA standards and who is liable in case of a lawsuit, my business or the building owner?

        Would strongly appreciate a response.

        Thank you,
        Henry

        • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

          There are a couple of issues that will affect your project. If you do renovation / construction for your restaurant, you will be required to spend 20% of the value of the construction on accessibility upgrades. You are also required to make “readily achievable” corrections to accessibility issues. Readily achievable is defined as, “easy to accomplish and without much difficulty or expense.” That’s essentially a sliding scale, which means one thing for a multinational corporation and another for a small mom & pop company.
          Re: liability, that can be either / or & should be defined by your lease, and if not that, your relationship with the landlord.

          • Henry A Valdez says:

            Thank you for the prompt response.

            The building has the restaurant already in place, all I’m doing is taking over as new owner of the business. However, I’ve noticed that the bathroom accessibility might be an issue for say, patrons on wheelchairs and there’s isn’t much I could do to alter the restrooms as space is an issue. What are my options, if any?
            In order to define “ready available or easy to accomplish” who decides or defines it?

            Thank you again for the much needed information.

            -Henry

          • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

            The short story is that I would strongly advise you to have a CASp inspector, come inspect the property & they will issue you a report, which should show you the issues that are in violation & what needs to be corrected. Most of the time, for a business like your’s, the corrections involve things like lever handle door hardware, lever handles on the lavatory faucets, locating the mirror in the correct location & adding grab bars at the toilet. The ADA typically doesn’t require that you turn the place upside down in order to make everything fully compliant.

  5. Chris says:

    I’m designing a media box solution for a customer that has rental units. The box will only be accessed 1-2 times a year by the maintenance person, are there ADA requirements I must take into consideration? If so, where can I find them?

    Thanks

  6. Alison says:

    We are a small family-run pizza shop relocating to another location. We are very limited in space, as the building is only 500 square feet. We will have one or two tables allowing no more than about 10 people to eat-in (not a waitered service), as the store is carryout and delivery only. In compliance with health code regulation, our restroom is NOT open to the public since it is a health concern for the public to use our employee only bathroom. Because the restroom is NOT open to the public, are we required to follow ADA regulation of a 180-degree turn for wheelchairs in the bathroom and at least 5 feet of turnaround space inbetween the toilet and sink? Thanks!

  7. mm Dwight Ashdown says:

    Without seeing the restaurant / restroom, it’s difficult to give a definitive opinion, but what I can say, is that the ADA requires that you make “readily achievable” improvements. It depends somewhat on when the building was built. I’m guessing that it was built before 1992, in which case you are not necessarily required to turn the building inside out to make a fully compliant restroom. You are required to make the readily achievable improvements, which would typically include accessible door handles, accessible controls on the lavatory, grab bars, toilet between 17″ and 19″ high etc. I hope this helps. If you have additional questions, pls. call us.

  8. John says:

    How do ADA laws impact fraternal organizations – Elks, Moose, Masons, etc. Are they exempt because they are considered ‘private’ clubs?

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      It’s my understanding that the ADA does not specifically apply to ‘private’ organizations. If, however, the organization is doing any modifications to their facility, California building codes, and accessibility requirements would apply.

  9. NDESH says:

    we are looking into remodeling our building. we are a large industrial manufacturing facility that has a small office space we are remodeling. how do I find out what the ADA code regulations are when dealing with the restrooms?

    thank you for your time.
    Ndesh

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      Step one, would be to purchase my digital book, ADA4CA which is available on iTunes, Amazon & Barnes & Nobel. The book is a compilation of state and federal codes for access compliance in California & will give you the requirements for restrooms, including signs on the doors. Let me know if you need anything else.

  10. Megan says:

    I have a small, part-time photography studio/office in the loft space above my garage. Sessions are by appointment only. The code enforcer came today and told me my space is not ADA accessible, although all of my equipment is mobile. In fact, I photograph on location quite often (parks, downtown, clients’ homes). If I am able to accommodate my client by shooting at a different location, am I not meeting ADA requirements? Surely installing a wheelchair lift on my staircase would be not be considered “readily achievable”.

    Thank you!!

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      Not knowing the specifics, I’m getting a bit out on a limb, but from what you’ve told me, it sounds like you are essentially providing “equivalent accommodation” for individuals with disabilities. It sounds like it would be appropriate to have a sign at the bottom of the stair with a door bell (connecting upstairs), an International Symbol of Accessibility and brief text, something to the effect of “For disabled assistance, please call (___) ___ ____”. When you receive a call, then you make arrangements to meet the individual at an alternate location.

      • Megan says:

        I appreciate your response! My business is home-based, so arrangements are always made prior to the photography session taking place. For every client, whether they are able bodied or not, I do a pre-session consultation to address any issues. I just can’t see making my personal home completely ADA compliant.

  11. Brian says:

    We just signed a lease for a space on the ground floor of a class A office building built in 2003 (California). There was an operating restaurant up until July of 2013 (plans show ADA compliant remodel in 2005). The space: is 2,000 sf, is set up for service for 50 and has one ADA compliant restroom only. We are only going to paint and install our own kitchen equipment (oven, pastry case, etc. – cost of about $15,000). Do we need to add an ADA restroom per 412.3?

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      I’m perplexed that a building built in 2003 w/ a 2,000 sq. ft. restaurant space, would only have 1 accessible restroom. Typically a restaurant of that size would require 2 accessible restrooms (Calif. Plumbing Code). I suggest that you discuss it with the jurisdictional authority (Bldg. Dept.). If they accept the single restroom, then you would probably be required to make $3,000 worth of accessibility improvements (20% of $15,000). I hope this helps.

  12. Rudy Blankenship says:

    I’m looking at buying a 24 unit apartment complex built in 1963. It is a very clean property, but obviously not ADA compliant. What are the risks of purchasing an older complex when it comes to the ADA.

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      If it’s privately owned / constructed with private, as opposed to public money, the units themselves do not need to meet current accessibility requirements. If there are public areas (rental office, pool etc.) those areas need to have “readily achievable” improvements / corrections made.

      I hope that helps.

  13. Anthony says:

    I’m purchasing a designated historical building and plan to use a majority of it as an office. The building is 3 stories, plus a basement (total 4 stories, 2500 sf per floor). I intend to remodel the 1st floor (street access) to have the restrooms ADA compliance and interview rooms to meet with client. The basement, 2nd, and 3rd floor will most likely not going to be in compliance due to no elevator or lifts. Does not having an elevator expose me to lawsuits and compliance issues?

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      It depends on a couple of things.
      1. What good sand services will be offered on the upper floors. You don’t want to have anything on an upper floor that can’t be offered to a disabled person in an alternate location via equivalent facilitation.
      It also depends on the extent of renovation you might be doing. If you spend more than $130k on construction costs f/ renovations.
      Then you would essentially be required to make the bldg fully accessible.

      Finally, it frankly depends on your financial resources. There is a different expectation for a mom & pop business than ther would be f/ Walmart.

      I hope that helps.

  14. Grant Lee says:

    I have just leased an existing restaurant & am only doing cosmetic work such as painting & new wall coverings. The only major work I’m doing is installing new LED ceiling lights. I have an existing non-ADA compliant drinking bar high counter that has an expensive & beautiful marble top. I am repainting the front face, but the structure is the same. Am I required to cut part of this down to create an ADA counter area?

  15. KG says:

    I have a commercial business and our bathrooms are not compliant. Only staff are allowed to use them though. The building was built before 2002 and there is no room for wheelchair access. How can we protect ourselves?

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      The best protection would be to have a CASp person come do an inspection – where they will identify the readily achievable items that can be corrected and provide you with a time frame for the required corrections. The CASp will also provide you with a certificate of inspection, which you can post in the window of your business as an indication that you are actively taking steps to make the required corrections.

  16. Kristi R says:

    I am a mortgage broker operating from a rented one room office in a historic (1855) building that is in the Federal Registry. There are two steps up to my door and due to the also historic, city owned sidewalk, it would be impossible to install any type of ramp without blocking the entire sidewalk and part of the State Highway running through the town. I have no employees and do not allow the public to use the restroom because I can’t allow anyone to walk toward the back where confidential client info is stored. I have no parking, just the city owned lots or on the street. The city has a public visitors center with public Ada restrooms located about 100 yards from the building I’m in. I do most of my business via phone or email and all my business by appointment anyway, so when I have a handicapped client, I offer to meet them at their home or other accessible place. Is that a reasonable accommodation? Any service available in my office is also available if I go to their home. Thank you so much.

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      As long as you provide equivalent facilitation – by offering to meet disabled clients in another, more convenient location, to provide your services, it appears that you are doing everything required by the ADA. You are also not required to make your restroom available to clients or the public.

  17. Lyn Dragieff says:

    Is an office building constructed in the early 1980’s, required to install elevators (2-story building) and have “public restrooms for non-customers”?

    All office suites have their own restroom facilities for their clients. I am looking to invest in such a building and want to know if this may be a problem down the road.

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      I’m hesitant to comment, without seeing the building, or knowing where it’s located or knowing what type of offices are in the building and what, if any goods or services are available in the building.

      I think the 2 best pieces of advice I can offer are:
      1. Have a local CASp person come look at the building and provide an assessment. You should be able to get an assessment for a minimal fee.
      2. Go talk to the local Building Department & see what they have to say.

      I hope that helps.

  18. Bill Beebe says:

    My office is expanding and remodeling a parking lot for a business. The building was constructed in 1964/1965 and had some additions prior to the 1980’s – the building does not meet ADA. Do the planned site improvements trigger the need for interior ADA improvements under the 2013 CBC? We are providing for accessibility from the street and new ADA parking spaces to a current as well as a new accessible entrance. The owner would like to focus his money at this time on the parking lot (and site improvements).

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      Making improvements to the parking lot – shouldn’t trigger improvements to the building. We would, however, encourage at a minimum, having a CASp inspector do an inspection & developing a plan for making “readily achievable” corrections to the building going forward.

  19. Roger Hanson says:

    Our California three story apartment building was constructed in 1962. Management leases/rents apartments to persons with disabilities as required by law. However, none of the four entrances to the building are modified for wheel chair/handicap access. Isn’t this almost an open invitation for possible ADA violation litigation? If so, what actions should the owners of the property take to protect themselves?

  20. William Cowell says:

    I am a surveyor who has been asked to do a survey for a restaurant that is older than 40 years old. No new construction has been done in over 25 years. The existing parking does not meet grade according to ADA standards and to redo the existing drainage would be prohibitively expensive, because of some constraints. Does the State or Federal ADA have authority to make my potential client do these anyway?

  21. Luis says:

    I’m leasing a 250 square feet store front used for a flower/gift shop that doesn’t have any accessible ramp for wheel chairs and the door is only 31″ wide. The building was built in the 1960’s and no renovations have been done. Do I need to do any changes to accommodate wheel chair access or because of the age of the building it doesn’t apply.

    Thank you, Luis

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      Without seeing the building I’m really not able to tell you what should be done.

      Generally, you are required to do the things that are “readily achievable” – i.e. able to accomplish without much difficulty or expense – which means one thing if you are a “mom & pop”, and something else if you are a large multi-national corporation. From your description, I would strongly advise that you have a CASp person come do an inspection. They will provide you with a certificate of inspection, which will significantly reduce the probability of an accessibility lawsuit. The CASp person will also provide you w/ recommendations about how to address the accessibility issues at your location.

  22. Jaydee says:

    Hi, we are looking to convert an existing store into an art gallery. The space is quite small at about 700 SF. The current business has a 7’x7′ restroom used by employees only. As part of the remodel to make this space into an art gallery, we’d like to reduce the restroom size to maximize the gallery space. Do we NEED to have ADA compliant restrooms even though the restroom will not be open to the public and will be used by the gallery staff only?

    Thanks!

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      Great question.

      The easy way to think about this is even though you don’t need to make your restroom available to customers / patrons, and neither you nor any of your employees is currently disabled – where do you want to be, when down the road one of your employees becomes disabled and is no longer able to use the facilities?

      One of the things I’ve learned along the way, is that we are all on the path to eventual disability.

      The other thing is that an accessible restroom is generally 7′-0″ x 7′-0″, and if you currently have an accessible restroom, I strongly advise you not to make any changes to it, other than making sure that the existing fixtures and accessories meet current accessibility requirements.

      • Jaydee says:

        I agree that we should still leave it big enough for it to be accessible. Our plan was to reduce it to 5’x7′-3″ and provide the 5′ diameter turning space (per 1991 standards). I guess the question is, will the reduction to a 5’x7′ be allowed by the city? Are we required to have an ADA accessible restroom that meets 2010 standards?

        Thanks again!

        Jay

        • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

          I would think that the reduction would not be allowed by the city. There’s really no provision to go backwards as it relates to codes. If you make any changes to the restroom, you’re actually looking at the 2010 ADA standards and the 2013 California Bldg. Code.

          I encourage you to go have a conversation with someone at the building department. You can have a general conversation, without telling them exactly where your project is, but describe the specifics / what you want to do & see what their response is.

  23. Antonio Violich says:

    Hello Dwight, We are remodeling the bathrooms of a small residential pool facility built in 1965. The county building department has designated the project to be of private residential use. Our budget is $75,000. We are prepared to make “readily achieveable” ADA modifications on our own behalf. We are using the ADA toilet stall standard (5’x5′). However, using the CaADA standard (5’x7’6”) would adversely impact other aspects of the project. There is a domino effect playing out here. Question: In California, under which conditions may the ADA (vs the CaADA) be used to establish “readily achieveable” compliance? Thank you, Antonio

  24. Allen Trujillo says:

    We want to replace fixtures, toilets, partitions, floor tile, cabinets, and sinks in our restrooms at our church. We are not changing the locations of any of the fixtures, just replacing each one. The building was built in 1958. Do we have ADA compliance issues we need to address?

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      Generally, if your church facilities are used exclusively by the church – and not leased out or used by other organizations – it’s not considered a facility that’s open to the public, and therefore not covered by the ADA. If you do make improvements, I would encourage you to, the extent possible, to make them in such a way as to facilitate accessibility compliance. We are all on the path to eventual disability.

  25. Mike says:

    I own a unit in an industrial business condominium park in California that was built before 1990. We are making some improvements inside. The construction firm says that we have to update the handicap parking out front. The unit owners don’t own any parking spaces–they are merely shared amongst the units. The association is responsible for the exterior of the building and the grounds, including the parking lot.

    Question #1: Do we really have to improve the handicap parking because of some inside improvements?

    Question #2: Who’s financial responsibility is it, mine or the association’s? To me, I either own the parking space and am responsible for it, or I don’t own it (which is the case), and the association is responsible for it. What say you?

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      Typically, in California, if you make modifications to the building, you are required to spend 20% of the cost of the construction modifications on accessibility improvements. The improvements typically start outside and proceed through the entry to the area of modification.

      Your question about financial responsibility depends on your lease.

  26. MH says:

    We have a lodge building that was built in 1909. There are a few members that would like to add railings to a section of a platform that contains 3 wide stairs. Would the addition of this be mandatory under ADA rules?

  27. Spri says:

    We are a fraternal organization that is considering renting our building for day use activities. Suggested ideas like weddings, exercise classes, club/group meetings, local community meetings, etc.

    The building was constructed in the 1940’s, with structural improvements required after the ’89 earthquake. We have two external staircases, and one internal staircase, which has led to comments that we have to have an elevator to meet ADA requirements. We also have two small bathrooms that would not allow for wheelchair/walker access.

    We are planning a kitchen remodel that could run upwards of $100K, which would make the kitchen/dining portion of the floor more amenable to community use (at present it looks like early 50’s – with the redeeming feature that the interior is all in knotty pine that looks amazing).

    What types of issues will we encounter if we begin to look at day use rental activities?
    Given the age of the building, and the bldg size / lot size, there is not a significant amount of exterior space to put in an elevator, and due to the bldg layout there would be a significant impact on our tenant downstairs if we tried to ‘engineer in’ an elevator in the interior of the building.

    Looking forward to your comments! Thanks – this site has answered quite a bit.

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      Two things.
      First, from your description, it appears that you may be able to rent out your space to “private” events, but you would not be able to have “public” events in the space.
      Second, when you pull your building permit, the building department will probably require that, in addition to the $100K on your renovation, you spend an additional 20% of the construction cost on ADA improvements.

  28. Brian Speyerer says:

    Will a single building, 2 unit employee housing need to be accessible?

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      I presume the project is privately owned / not publicly funded, in which case it would probably not need to be fully accessible. You should probably talk to your Building Department and you would probably want to make provisions for accessibility compliance (blocking for grab bars etc.)

  29. Nikki says:

    Hi, I own a day spa and salon. My building is zoned C1 commercial although it is an old 1920 Victorian home on a residential street. My building is now fully ADA compliant. However, there is a very large back yard and huge unfinished basement. I want to finish the basement and offer yoga classes, however the stairs are very steep. Does it need to have a ramp in lieu of the stairs if I can offer outdoor yoga on the lawn for disabled clients? I live in CA

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      I’m concerned when you say the stairs are “very steep.” There are accessibility & Building Code requirements for stairs & it could be a serious problem, ADA aside, if your stairs don’t meet those requirements. Regarding your disabled clients, you may want to consider arranging to provide equivalent classes at an alternate / accessible location.

  30. Jose Sanchez says:

    I am wheelchair user recently hired by a private Company who’s offices are on the second floor of 2 story building managed by an HOA (some units are rented other are owned). there is one elevator that services two buildings/two tenants and the only way to access the office of the tenant furthest away (my employer/2nd tenant) is to go through the offices of the tenant closest to the elevator and through a backdoor that leaves you in front of the doors of the 2nd tenant. the HOA claims there are not easements/access provisions in the lease of the tenant closest to the elevator. how can we legally get them to provide access? Can my employer force the hand of the HOA to provide access from the pathway of the elevator to the front door of my employer? other than installing some type of lift in the stairwell in front of my employers office, what are my options?
    thank you,
    JOSE

  31. Tom H says:

    I know more then 1 property owner who striped their parking lot and then the very next year got hit with a ADA claim since the laws changed a small amount on Jan 1st. Is there any defense to this? It is not practical to restripe a parking lot every year.

    Second question: In Calif there are so many aggressive profit minded individuals and attorneys filing ADA claims. In my opinion it has risen to the level of legal blackmail. It has done sever damage to small business and even put them out of business. I know 1 where they have been hit 4 times in 5 years (by different individuals). Is the legislature ever going to fix this issue?

  32. Scott B says:

    My health club has 2 stories. I am unable to walk the stairs to the second level any more due to my disability. There are different forms of equipment on the second level that aren’t on the first level. My question is: Is the health club required under the 2010 ADA act or the 2013 California code to install an elevator for equal access?

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      Whoa – that’s a big question. I obviously don’t know the specifics, but generally I would say that the Health Club either needs to provide you with the same or equivalent equipment on the ground floor – or provide a lift / elevator to facilitate access to the 2nd floor.

  33. Liz Guillaume says:

    Hi, my husband and I are in the process of buying a sandwich shop. It’s location is in a building built in 1968, it’s 700sq ft, and we plan on renovating to the tune of about $18000. The issue is that the bathroom is in the back and is clearly not ADA compliant. The current owner has a “no public bathroom” sign and that’s how he “solves” the problem. We need to know if,when we buy the business, if we are responsible for making the bathroom ADA compliant. We won’t own the building (which is part of a strip mall) just the business. Any information will be extremely helpful. Thanks so much.

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      I encourage you to go have a conversation w/ the Building Department.

      Generally, I would say that you would be required to make “readily achievable” accessibility improvements to the restroom and your business, the value of which will need to total 20% of what you spend for construction renovations. I would also say that, presuming you are spending less than $140,000 on renovations, that you would not be required to make the restroom fully accessible. There is an exception in the ADA that says you are not required to put in a fully accessible restroom – if doing so would have a significant impact on your business or operations.

  34. Jay Mac says:

    I wanted to bring in portable restrooms for the people that are outside a large event venue. Do I have to have ADA compliant portable restrooms for the outside patrons if they have access to the ADA restrooms inside the venue?

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      From your brief description it appears that you should provide accessible portable toilets at your outside locations. You don’t want to discriminate against anyone by saying, “you have to go use these other restrooms over here.”

  35. Greetings,

    We have public occupant building (a live theatre) and in 2010 we did a $1M+ remodel, for which we received a valid building permit, completing the project in 2011. For various reasons, the building inspector did not require full ADA compliance at that time, due to historic issues, neighborhood issues, cost, common sense, etc.

    5 years later we have a new building inspector and he is now saying that the 2010 permit was issued in error and wants our building brought up to full compliance before he will issue another building permit – even for a small ADA project or other small project. Can he retroactively make these demands?

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      Oy – I’m an architect & usually I find myself in the position of essentially doing whatever the Building Dept. wants. Having said that, there are times when we can reason with them. It sounds like your Bldg. Inspector is biting down hard on this one. Given that the previous renovation was $1M+, you should have been required at that time to bring the building into compliance. Sorry…

  36. Rachael says:

    I do not have a disability but myself and two other women are pregnant in our 9 person department. Our filing systems and service window are not up to ADA requirements and our boss and senior management is clearly aware of this and are dragging their feet to do anything. From the sounds of it they may end up doing nothing at all. Due to safety concerns that were a problem even becoming pregnant I’m even more concerned handling the filing now that I am. Is there a way to file a complaint with someone other than ADA.gov to get these obvious problems looked at or even resolved? We’ve already brought them to the attention of my supervisor, boss, AVP and VP without any resolution.

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      Oy – I’m an architect, and what you’re asking is more of a procedural / frankly legal question. I’m also not sure the pregnancy is considered a disability (pls. hold the hate mail). If you would like I can refer you to an attorney who will probably be more helpful.

  37. AA says:

    Hello!

    Thank you for all of your help on this blog. I am working with a private company, with a few interns and about ten to fifteen employees. We are building a new bathroom for our executive employees in our building. We are wondering if we are required to be ADA/CBC compliant in building out this bathroom, and if so, what we need to be mindful of? Our offices are not open to the public, just the employees (none of whom are disabled at the moment, but from reading your previous posts I gather that is not a main issue in framing the analysis). Thank you!

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      If you have the space, and can afford it, I would strongly encourage you to make the new restroom ADA compliant – if only to be one less thing to worry about down the road. There are also tax credits & deductions available to help pay for it.
      For additional info. pls. see http://www.ashdownarch.com/resources.html

      • AA says:

        Ok, thanks! I tried to click on the link, and the article you wrote on credits, but it is leading to a dead page for some reason. I was reading that it becomes a requirement to have an ADA compliant facility when a business has 15 or more employees. Do contractors count for purposes of this analysis?

  38. susan says:

    I am closing my Hair Salon and will be doing some of my clients in my Home, I am wondering if I have to be ada compliant if I am not open to the public? It would be by appt. only… I live in Calif.

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      Personally, I think you’ll be fine, because essentially you are operating a “private” business. It would probably be in your best interest, however, to cut a deal with an accessible hair salon, that you could get access to, should the need ever arise.

  39. William Knight says:

    Our small church of which I am pastor just resurfaced our parking lot. Are we required to put the wheelchair emblem on the surface of the area that we have reserved for handicap parking. It does no good to talk to the building department, they were unable to give me much information.

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      As a church you are a private entity & “technically” not required to comply with the ADA – which applies to entities offering goods and services to the “public”. If your church is available to other entities / open to the the public, then it needs to comply w/ the ADA.
      The California Building Code, however, applies to anything you build / remodel & the CBC has specific requirements about accessible parking stalls, signs etc. For those requirements, you can refer to either the CBC or our digital guide to accessibility requirements in California, which is available on itunes, Amazon or Barnes & Nobel.

  40. Ulises says:

    I am an asphalt/concrete contractor in the state of california. If my customer received a CASp report and I were to fix the ADA ramps, the work passes the CASp inspection and my customer receives a certificate, does this mean my customer is in compliance with city regulations ? Can city officials make me redesign and re-install the work to their satisfaction?
    Thanks

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      This sounds like something you should review with your CASp inspector, and without knowing the specifics of what was built / what the City wants corrected, it’s difficult for me to say. Generally, however, if something was built with a permit, and it’s subsequently inspected by the City, and they determine that what was built is not code compliant, the City has the authority to say that it needs to be corrected.

      • Ulises says:

        Your answer is exactly what i thought. The CASp certificate does not mean you comply with city regulations. The problem with business owners and CASp reports, is that the owner will use the CASp report as a guide to avoid city approved plans drawn by an Architect/engineer. It is cheaper for them not to have the city involved and plans drawn, but the customer wants the contractor to Guarantee that construction will be ok with the city.

        I lost a few jobs because I couldn’t guarantee my work would be ok with the city. The city may simply say ” I dont like this ada ramp in this location, you need to move it here”.

        sigh….

  41. JOHN says:

    I am doing a small commercial TI with a room that requires a non-compliant sink. It’s required for the use of the room and process. The sink is used to wash out big tubs and buckets. More of a utility sink. It’s a privately own company. An ADA sink will not work for this use.

    Is there an exception to having a non ADA compliant utility sink?

    Thank you.

  42. Erin Jones says:

    I work for a general contractor who is remodeling a fast food restaurant. Only the drive thru will be open to the public, not the lobby. We are providing temporary restrooms for our employees as well as the restaurant’s. Do the temporary restrooms need to be ADA compliant?

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      If the temporary restrooms are available to the public – then yes, they need to be accessible. If the temporary restrooms are only available for employees, none of whom are disabled, then I presume that they do not need to be accessible.

  43. Nancy says:

    I work for a small family-owned business that owns several apartment buildings in the area. Our office is on the ground floor of an older (60’s) house and the upstairs is rented to four tenants who are therapists. We have a small parking lot in the back of the building, a total of 7 spaces, that is primarily used by our employees and the tenants upstairs.
    Do we need to make one of these spaces handicap accessible? There is on-street city parking available for the upstairs therapy patients.
    Our business is mostly conducted by phone, online and through the on-site managers at our apartment buildings. Tenants in our apartments rarely come to the office since they pay their rent to the managers or mail it to us, and they phone or email us with repair issues. We are unclear on whether we have to be ADA compliant.

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      It’s difficult to say, without seeing the project.
      On a general note, I would say, that if you / your tenants offer goods or services to the public, then you are required to make “readily achievable” improvements to the property to make it more accessible. Often with older buildings, it’s difficult, if not impossible to make the building fully accessible. In that case, I often advise clients to make alternate arrangements, so that if an individual with disabilities desires to obtain their goods or services, they can be met in an alternate / accessible location where those goods or services can be provided.

  44. Krystal Romero says:

    I recently signed a lease for a restaurant and I am currently in the planning phase of it all. It has 1 bathroom located in the back of the restaurant passing the kitchen, which I believe was strictly for employees. It even has a still present sign in the front which reads “no public restrooms”. My restaurant is 1,350 sf and will be primarily takeout services with less than 20 seating capacity. Would like to know if I am required to have a public/customer restroom ? Please advise, thanks.

  45. Kenji says:

    Hi, I am modifying a commerical space with five offices that I will be renting out. This building is not open to the public. It will only used and occupied by tenants. I have five private parking spaces for tenants in the back of the building.

    Am I required to have an ADA bathroom, parking spaces, and access to the building if it is not accessible is public?

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      It’s difficult to provide you with precise guidance, without seeing the specifics of the building. Even though your tenants will not be providing goods and services to the public, I would strongly recommend that you make “readily achievable” improvements to the building, such as lever handle on the doors and lavatory controls, grab bars in the restrooms, insulate all pipes under the restroom lavatories, toilet accessories no higher than 40″ and bottom of the reflective surface of the restroom mirrors at 40″ – as best practice, and knowing that it’s only a matter of time until one or more of your tenants becomes disabled.

  46. Janie says:

    I am an owner of a unit in a condo style industrial building which is managed by an Association. The building was built in the early 80s, so there is zero ADA parking. Each unit owner is designated a certain number of parking spots.

    I am planning on renovating the inside of my unit. The city now requires me to convert my standard parking spot into an ADA one which will bring the entire building up to code. This means I will end up sacrificing a few of my standard parking spots, though I technically still own the space. And, all the other unit owners and the HOA end up benefiting at my expense. The CC&Rs indicate that the parking area is considered a “common area” which is under the jurisdiction of the Association.

    Since installing a ADA parking spot seems to be an “improvement” to the parking lot which is a common area, Is the Association responsible for bringing the building up to ADA standards or am I?

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      Are you asking if the Association is responsible for bringing the “building” or the “parking lot” up to ADA standards?

      • Janie says:

        Hi Dwight,

        I’m wondering if the Association (for a commercial building) is responsible for bringing the Parking Lot up to ADA compliance? Or am I, an owner of one of the units, responsible for installing handicap parking?

  47. Linda says:

    Hi,

    I’m opening a Cafe and only the entrance and restroom are ADA compliant. There is a back door that is not ADA compliant. Do I need to have that be ADA compliant even though it’s not meant for customers to go in/out of it?

  48. ISABELLA says:

    Hi Dwight Ashdown,
    I signed rent agreement in March 22nd 2016 for opening new business, the landlord’s existing restroom was approved by building and safety department in late 2014. My first plan review was denied on May 28th by building and safety department. My second plan review was denied on June 20th, the reasons of denial are multiple, the plan checker didn’t give any comments about existing restroom issue when the second plan review was denied. Unfortunately the 3rd plan review was denied on August 29th after I hired another more professional architect, but the reason of denial is existing restroom ADA doesn’t meet city’s ADA newest code, the new code updated on June.2016. My question is, the new code was updated during the period of plan review and after my first two plans review was denied, do I need to comply the previously ADA code or comply newest code, upgrading restroom is a big project and will cost big expense, landlord will not take responsibility for this expense.

    I really appreciated and look forward to your reply

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      In my experience, the code that applies is the one that’s in effect at the time of initial permit submittal.

      • ISABELLA says:

        Hi Dwight Ashdown,

        Thank you very much for your fast reply!
        Do you know where can i find the relevant provision that can be proved of your opinion?

        Thank you very much
        Isabella

  49. Brian Veasman says:

    I am looking at renting a small retail space and converting it to food service use. The current bathroom is small, not Ada complaint without the 5 foot turning radius. Should this be the responsibility of mine or the landlords? Landlord states it’s currently at retail regulation and our change of use will require the bathroom adjustments on our dollar.

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      What you are asking is a legal question that depends to a certain extent on how your lease is written, so in some respects, you may want to talk to an attorney. Having said that, the ADA requires that you make “readily achievable” corrections, which is defined as, “things which are easy to correct, without much difficulty or expense.” The definition of “readily achievable” means one thing for a mom & pop business and something else for a multinational corporation. It doesn’t necessarily require that you put in a fully accessible restroom, which is typically 7′-0″x7′-0″ if that would adversely affect your sales or operations.

  50. Wendy Warren says:

    Good Morning,
    I submitted plans to the city of San Jose for an 1121 sq. ft cafe, no ventilation. It´s in a historical building. The front of the cafe is not ADA accessable, the adjacent lobby is. In the plans we put a second entrance from the lobby so that the store would be ADA accessable. We also put the bathroom entrance in the hallway, and the plans call for it to be completely torn out and remodelled to ADA standards. But the city is telling me I have to change the front entrance. The project is at 250K and I can´t afford any more. I think I meet the standards, do I? Thanks, Wendy Warren, Chromatic Coffee

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      It’s difficult to say, without seeing the project drawings. It sounds as though you are making reasonable accommodations, given the physical constraints of the site. It also sounds as though the City wants the primary entrance to be accessible, which is always preferable, wherever possible.

  51. Jade C says:

    Hi Dwight!

    I have a question for you. I own a small 500 ft retail shop in Los Angeles, Ca. Our building just sold and our landlords want to put a bathroom in our shop. We do not want this to happen because it will be taking away valuable floor space for us to sell our merchandise. Is it a must to have this bathroom installed? Or is there a way we can move around it?

    Thanks so much for your input

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      It depends on what kind of shop you own. If it’s food service, there needs to be a restroom. If it’s not food service, what do you / your employees do re: getting access to a restroom.
      The short story re: the ADA, is that if you have a restroom, it needs to be accessible to the extent that is “readily achievable.” The ADA does not require that you put in a fully accessible restroom (typically 7′-0″x7′-0″), if it significantly impacts your sales or operations area.

  52. Dennis Beasley says:

    I run a theatre that is in need of a renovation. We are not looking to change anything structurally (no walls are moving), but we are looking to replace the auditorium chairs and change the flooring in the lobby. We are also looking to make our rehearsal room in the back a small performance space which would mean adding portable seating and changing the floor. Our building was built in 1979 and the restrooms are not compliant. If we were to just change the things I mentioned, would we also have to change the bathrooms. Thanks for your help!

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      It sounds like the changes you are contemplating involves fixtures, furnishings & equipment, which typically doesn’t require a building permit. If you are doing anything other than that, which involves construction and a building permit, then, depending on the value of construction, you will be required to make certain ADA improvements. I the value of construction is $150k or less, you would typically be required to spend an additional 20% of the value of construction on ADA improvements.

  53. Aaron Petersen says:

    Looking into a new food establishment remodel. A general question: it would seem that under the new “gender neutral” laws being enacted that perhaps there will be a change in regulations regarding 2 differnent sex bath rooms, (one for each sex). Is this issue being discussed as an option. Could it be that only one large unisex restroom (handicap of course) will be required? If so, a lot of space can be saved by businesses (regardless of their patrons issues). Any thoughts? Thanks

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      The short story is that the new gender neutral requirements only affect signs on single occupancy restrooms. The number of restrooms and toilet fixtures is still determined by the California Plumbing Code and is not affected by the gender neutral requirements.

  54. sara zahn says:

    I own an historic hotel/bar built in 1850 and have to make repairs to upstairs guest rooms due to a fire. Unable to build an elevator or widen stairs for wheelchair access due to construction of walls. Entrance to hotel and bar is ADA compliant so are the bathrooms and access ways but repairs to upstairs hotel rooms are in excess of $700,000. Does the 20% rule apply if everything is compliant and nothing needs modifying?

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      I believe that it would apply – but I strongly encourage you to have a conversation with your Bldg. Dept. & I suspect that they will have you fill out a hardship form, which may exempt part, if not all of the 20% requirement.

  55. Ander D says:

    Hello,
    We have a location that used to be an engine repair facility. We will be using it for warehouse space and not open to the public. Do we need to make ADA modifications to the bathrooms or entry area during our remodel? Which is not a full remodel but mostly clean up and bringing it to city code compliance.
    Thank you for your time.

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      I don’t know where you are located – but typically, if you are doing any sort of remodel, you’ll need to pull a building permit, and the Bldg. Dept. will typically require that you spend 20% of your construction costs on ADA improvements.

  56. gaby v says:

    hi,
    is there a diagram or layout that is easy to understand for guidance to a single occupancy restroom for a automotive business?
    thank you

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      Yes, my digital book ADA4CA, available on iTunes, Amazon & Barnes & Nobel has diagrams for single occupancy restrooms.

  57. Courtney Bailey says:

    Hello,

    I am in the process of building a greenhouse in a rural area. Are there any agricultural industries that can apply for an exemption based on the type of work they conduct? Thank you.

    • mm Dwight Ashdown says:

      I’m not sure what sort of exemption you asking about. If your greenhouse is providing goods and services to the public, then those areas open to the public would need to be accessible.

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