Disability Lawyer in Orlando, FL
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the subsequent Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) regularly impacts businesses in employment relationships, access to facilities and programs, and websites. For private companies, there are two parts of the ADA that you should be familiar with, Title I and Title III. Title I applies to employers with 15 or more employees while Title III applies to places of public accommodation. A private company can be subject to the ADA under either or both of these portions of the law.
What you need to know as an employer
As an employer you need to know if you are covered under the ADA and what to do when someone asks for an accommodation. Whether you are covered is relatively simple, and if you have more than 15 employees then you are very likely covered. If you are covered and if you know that one of your employees may need a change in the workplace to accommodate that person’s disabilities then you will need to engage in the “interactive process.” The interactive process is an exchange of information between you, the employee, and health care providers which is, at base, an investigation to determine if an accommodation for a disability is possible and reasonable. Notably, a request for an accommodation need not be formal and in writing (though it is quite helpful to have a policy and forms to aid you in this process).
The key takeaway here is that if you have 15 employees and you know that one of your employees may need a change in their job due to a health condition, you should call to discuss your next steps.
What you need to know as a place of public accommodation
Title III of the ADA regulates private businesses with places of public accommodation—that is a place that the business owns, leases, leases to a third party, or operates. Places of public accommodation are broken down into 12 categories, these include:
- Places of lodging;
- Establishments serving food or drink;
- Places of exhibition or entertainment;
- Places of public gathering;
- Sales or rental establishments;
- Service establishments;
- Public transportation terminals, depots, or stations (not including facilities relating to air transportation);
- Places of public display or collection;
- Places of recreation;
- Places of education;
- Social service center establishments; and
- Places of exercise or recreation.
The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with a disability, which means individuals with disabilities cannot be denied full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations offered. So a businesses covered by the ADA must make accommodations for those with disabilities. One of the most common issues has to do with accessibility of buildings. Very common examples of access problems include ramps from parking locations, width of doorways, or placing supplies in store aisles. There are myriad potential violations of the ADA, and if your company has a place of public accommodation and you should be aware of the types of ADA issues at your location or in the services you provide. In addition to access, if your services or policies differentiate based on disabilities, this may be a violation of the ADA. For example, if you require a disabled individual to have a companion to help them in your facilities, or if you segregate individuals with disabilities into certain areas or programs. There are circumstances where treating individuals with disabilities differently is permissible—for example if safety is at issue. However, to determine if that different treatment is permissible, you should call to discuss how your business handles these matters.
What you need to know about your website or app
A relatively new type of ADA claim has come about in the past few years relating to accessibility of websites and apps. The law on these types of claims is not yet settled, however there have been over a thousand cases filed across the country and many demand letters from plaintiffs’ lawyers have been sent to businesses. The claims are typically based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG (the current edition is 2.1)—this is not a law, rather it is a set of guidelines published by the World Wide Web Consortium and developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative. WCAG is not a part of the ADA, but it does give information about accessibility of web based content and has been largely used as a basis to bring lawsuits. These claims have predominantly focused on individuals with visual impairment, but claims have been expanding to issues relating to individuals with hearing impairment and other types of disabilities. If you have a demand letter or if you have gotten sued for your website or app, you should call to discuss the matter. This is a new area of case law, and a law firm that understands web accessibility and what is required to modify a website or app is critical to resolving these cases favorably.