ADA Guidelines for Small Businesses

As promised, the Department of Justice has posted an ADA Primer for Small Businesses.

This document explains many of the confusing requirements that the ADA has in addition to building code like requirements.  Basically, the safe harbor for older ADA compliance with 1990 standards is an option for businesses wanting to comply with the ADA up until March 15, 2012.  The safe harbor applies to elements on a case by case basis.

After March 15, 2012 businesses WILL NO LONGER HAVE THE OPTION as to which standard they want to comply to.  So if an older standard is easier to achieve, that option will no longer be available after March 15, 2012.  You will have to comply with the 2010 ADA standards.

If you’ve been following us on this blog or if you have been to one of our ADA Seminars on ADA Compliance then you understand that the majority of places of public accommodation are in fact not compliant with even the older ADA 1990 standards.


In  many cases, older standards can be more stringent.  For example, the ADA of 2010 allows some tolerances for the centerline position of toilets.  If you are in California, this might make a difference, or it might not as the California Building Code still applies.

Many of the issues in the PDF affect issues of policy, for instance

  • Braille Menus or readers must be required
  • Service Animals are now defined solely as Dogs (except in one particular case, miniature horses)
  • Communication with Customers must be readily available in NON-Verbal Exchanges

These are the main requirements.  As always, readily achievable barrier removal must be performed whenever possible.  A few examples of these include

  • Lowered Counters
  • Clear floor space underneath controls
  • Steps at the Main Entrance
  • Installing Amenities and Grab bars in the Restrooms
  • Many Parking Accessibility Issues

We will example some of these in details in later articles.  For now, though you should look at the PDF.  Also be aware that the safe harbor does not apply in cases like

  • Accessible Showers
  • Saunas
  • Residential Facilities
  • Play Areas
  • Swimming Pools

There are many more requirements, but if you are an average business owner than you are probably not effected by these.

For now though, this ends the summation of this guide.  The link again, is here:


As always if you have any comments, questions or concerns feel free to call us at 866 982 3212 x1 or email us at

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