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ADA Guidelines Should be Reviewed and Followed to Avoid Lawsuit Headaches

The recent article titled “Local handicapped activist accused of lawsuit abuse” by Brett Shipp on wfaa.com puts the spotlight on a headache-inducing problem for businesses, hospitals, and any other public facility around the country. Sometimes, in the name of the disabled, but mostly in the name of “lawsuit settlement,” attorneys are exposing those who are not following current ADA guidelines and trying to get them to settle through a cash payment.

Let these excerpts serve as a harbinger for those who think they can cut corners on ADA guidelines. You might get away with it for a while, but more and more instances of complaints and lawsuits are popping up across the country…whether they are justified or not.

“Leslie Greer, of Allen, is suing the West Village in Uptown for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Her suit has forced the developers to make dramatic improvements. In fact, Greer’s name is well-known at courthouses all over North Texas and in Oklahoma, where since 1996 she has filed 119 lawsuits claiming A.D.A. violations. In January 2011, Greer branched out, suing seven small restaurants in Pennsylvania, six of them in one day. In March, Greer sued eight small restaurants near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, seven of them on the same day.”

Click the link to read the full article. http://www.wfaa.com/news/investigates/Handicapped-activist-accused-of-going-too-far-120905159.html

In Sacramento, a local business owner was successful in a recent lawsuit, but it was a headache for him. In a recent article by Nicole Banks in the  North Sacramento News, Johnnie Walker (the defendant) recounts what happened.

“It was 6 months of a nightmare for me – because I gathered all this information myself in order to keep my legal costs down,” Walker added. Those legal costs were the result of one letter. That letter was from Scott Johnson, an Americans with Disabilities Act litigator from Carmichael, CA.

Johnson’s letters have appeared on doorsteps throughout the state, from restaurants to dentist offices to gas stations. The notice states that the business must become compliant with various changes to disabled signage and parking as required by ADA. It gives notice to alter the property and/or to settle with Johnson monetarily.

For businesses unaware of the guidelines, it can be a shock. Some risk shutting down due to the cost of paying thousands of dollars in fees or construction for the proper wheelchair slopes, redesigning of the interior of a location and parking expansions. For Walker, it meant he was getting sued.”

For California laws regarding the ADA: www.calchamber.com

The Business and Legal Reports site addresses the most current revisions:
www.blr.com

So what does this mean for the signage business? Well, that depends on how much money and success these lawyers have in obtaining settlements. In California, for example, the state has hired one person to inspect buildings to verify if the California Braille system is actually being used. Now, that’s only one person — but you tell me — when is the last time you heard of a government worker finding no reason for their department or job to exist?

Here is our simple, two-step recommendation about how you you can protect yourself from ADA lawsuits:

  • Learn what the current 2010 ADA guidelines say about letter height, tactile characters, and sign placementand compare them with your state guidelines and follow them to the letter. There is enough room in the guidelines to allow for creative design, but don’t get cute or fancy with crazy fonts or you might find yourself in need of some aspirin. In short, there is no need to not follow them.
  • If your client refuses your ADA compliant designs and recommendations, have the client sign a simple letter of disclaimer that says they demand the non-ADA compliant design and they release you from responsibility.
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