It’s good policy and good business to make the doors in your building accessible to people with disabilities. These individuals are a significant segment of the population, with $175 billion per year in discretionary income. A business can tap this lucrative market by investing in accessibility. One major area that is easy to upgrade is the hardware on entrances and interior doors.
Despite the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), many building owners still have not done enough to make their doors and door hardware ADA compliant. “Businesses have had 13 years to meet the ADA’s requirements. There’s no longer an excuse for violations,” says Alan Reith, president, National Organization on Disability (NOD), Washington, D.C.
If compliance seems costly, non-compliance can be even more expensive. The rising cost of lawsuits is coupled with civil penalties by the U.S. Department of Justice – up to $55,000 for the first violation, and $110,000 for subsequent violations. Building value can also be affected if there are accessibility issues to be dealt with. Yet many changes are easy to make, such as replacing door knobs with lever trim or adding a power door operator.
ADA accessibility does not simply accommodate those with disabilities, but also serves everyone that uses a facility. In addition to serving the 54 million Americans with disabilities, a building with more accommodating doors and hardware is convenient for the elderly, children, and people carrying heavy loads or pushing strollers. It’s a business advantage to create an environment that accommodates all ages and people. Providing accommodations can create a positive corporate image and deliver a favorable message about your company as well.
Many companies are now realizing the benefits of ADA compliance. An average of 19.3 percent of the population has at least one disability, according to the U.S. Census 2000. The few extra dollars it costs per square foot to accommodate people with disabilities are worth spending because of the multiplier effect, particularly in occupancies like restaurants and entertainment venues where people go in groups.
ADA compliance does not have to be an expensive burden, but rather an investment that can provide real financial returns. Unfortunately, the corporate mindset is often that facility expenses should be tightly controlled, minimized, or eliminated. Companies are not accustomed to recognizing that some facility expenses can actually generate new revenue. Although the payoff could be long term and not readily visible, ADA compliance is a benefit to a company, its customers, and the general population.
Improving the accessibility of your facility is not only the right thing to do; it also makes good fiscal sense. Help is available, with an increasing number of companies available to conduct a complete assessment of ADA accessibility compliance. “You want a consultant with a pragmatic view of ADA compliance who is also able to leverage other business objectives,” says Mark Derry, president, Eastlake Derry & Associates, Morgantown, WV. Eastlake Derry & Associates is an accessibility and ADA consulting and training services company. Consulting companies will also provide solutions to related facility, security, safety, productivity, convenience, and other strategic organizational goals.
Ron Ratell is an ADA program manager for Carmel, IN-based IR Security & Safety Americas (www.irsecurityandsafety.com).