Cal Accessibility

Myth #1: My Business Does Not Need to Be Compliant Because the Building is Old and, Therefore, Grandfathered.

There are no “grandfathering” provisions. “Grandfathering” is the notion that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and state law access requirements do not apply to buildings constructed prior to the effective date of these statutes. This, however, is not true. Regardless of the age or historical importance of a building, if it is open to the public, you must provide access to your goods and services in order for your facility to be considered compliant. If your facility was built or had any alterations made to it since January 26, 1992 (under the ADA) or was built or had any alterations made to it since 1970 (under California law), there are obligations to remove barriers at the time of that building or alteration. 

 An alteration is defined as almost any construction, repairs, or renovation that affects or could affect the usability of the building or facility or any part of it; it includes tenant remodels. There are some exceptions, such as purely cosmetic changes like paint and carpet replacement. If an alteration is made, then barriers must be removed in the path of travel and restrooms serving the area of alteration, as well as the area of alteration itself. 

 Even if your building has had no alterations, the ADA requires that an owner or operator of a public accommodation make changes that are “readily achievable” in order to improve access to goods and services. This is an ongoing obligation, meaning you are required to periodically evaluate the barriers in your facility that are not “readily achievable” to determine if barrier removal can be accomplished in the future and to plan for the time when barrier removal can be achieved. 

 Even if no physical changes are readily achievable, you must establish a modification of your policies and procedures or some other alternate means of providing access to the greatest extent possible. If you cannot determine what barrier removal obligations you have or whether creating more accessible environments is readily achievable, you should hire a Certified Access Specialist (CASp) or another expert.