If you’re a commercial office manager or owner, it is important you follow ADA guidelines. Pay special attention to Title I, which prohibits discrimination in hiring, promotions, firing, training, benefits, and conditions of employment on the basis of disability, and Title III, which governs public accommodations such as workspaces.
Office Matters: Why ADA Compliance is Important?
Workplaces must provide accommodations so that all employees of all abilities are well accommodated and have full access to all facilities and services. This also applies to your customers or anyone visiting your commercial office. The ADA also guides any policies and procedures in your office including communication and interactions with both employees and customers. Having an ADA-compliant workspace allows your employees to work to the best of their abilities, so they and the company can reach full potential. If the workspace is not accessible, people cannot safely navigate the office and you are not obeying the law.
Who Must Be Compliant?
For your commercial office, you will be expected to make any and all reasonable accommodations. This means the accommodation can be achieved without excessive expenses or difficulty in developing. Almost every business needs to be compliant. There are a few exemptions including:
- Businesses established less than 20 years ago
- Offices with 14 employees or less
- The building was constructed in the early 1990s
If you do fall under one of these categories, you are not necessarily off the hook. Your business will grow and as it does, ADA compliance will become a requirement. If you are only in the early stages of developing your business, it is wise to think ahead about ADA and what you will need to do to incorporate ADA standards into your office.
Designing an ADA Compliant Office
When it comes to making your office space accessible and ADA compliant, there are a few things to consider.
- Accessible Entrances: All office spaces must have at least one accessible entrance. Even one small step can prevent those with wheelchairs to gain access as well as individuals with canes or other mobility devices. The best way around this is to install a ramp. You can modify your current entrance or if this is too difficult, create another entrance that is accessible for all. Then, make sure you identify it so people can see it.
- Doorways and Hallways: Doors and hallways must be at least 36 inches wide so that wheelchairs can easily navigate through. If there are any double doors in the office with doors that are individually less than 36 inches wide, both must be left open during the course of the business day. Doors that require a lot of force to open (usually more than 5 pounds) need to be opened with assistance like a button that opens them electronically. Any carpeting throughout the building needs to be properly secured and never more than ½-inch thick.
- Desks and Tables: The ADA requires that desks are at least 27 inches in height to accommodate wheelchairs. Employees need to be able to sit under the desk without bumping the armrests. Adjustable desks are a great way to accommodate everyone so there is flexibility to have the desk at the desired height for each employee. These electric height-adjustable desks are more expensive than standard desks, but a more cost-effective and inclusive solution for the long term.
- Digital Accessibility: The digital world is essential to most businesses these days, and as such, reasonable accommodations are also needed for digital properties such as computers, job software, emails, and the internet. These all need to be accessible for employees with disabilities
It’s Easier Than It Sounds
ADA compliance may seem like a complicated code but it is much simpler than it seems. The majority of the accommodations that are required by ADA standards are simple office modifications. Small changes that make a big difference. Planning ahead is the most effective way to accommodate these changes so the process is easier for everyone involved.