ADA reform bill advances

ADA handicap

Steve Johnson / flickr

Businesses will gain new incentives to comply under the American Disabilities Act, thanks to a bill authored by state Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside.

SB251 would reform compliance rules with the ADA, by extending requirements for attorneys to report ADA-related violations, as well as giving small businesses a 15 day grace period for certain “technical violations,” a 120 day period for businesses to identify and correct violations and up to 6 months to make corrections on a building permit.

The bill also mandates city and county building departments to provide materials that will educate businesses regarding ADA regulations. In addition, those departments are required to expedite the permit process for businesses looking to correct ADA violations.

Under current law, ADA noncompliance is considered a violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, “which guarantees damages of at least $4,000 for any violation of any anti-discrimination law.” As noted in a Riverside Press-Enterprise editorial, these provisions mean that any violation – “small, trivial or hardly perceptible” – could be claimed as discrimination and “thus lead to settlements that can be painful to small businesses.”

Incentives for businesses to comply with ADA rules

During a Tuesday Assembly Judiciary Committee hearing, consumer rights attorney Brian Kabateck said the bill would help small businesses by eliminating “drive-by shakedown lawsuits” and addresses both the “access problem” and “bad lawyer problem.”

“This bill creates an incentive for business and property owners to fix and to remedy the problems in their business by going out and hiring a certified inspector, getting what’s commonly called a ‘CASp report’ and getting that work done in 120 days,” he said. “And it should represent to business owners and property owners in the state … a huge incentive [for] them to do the right thing.”

Jennifer Barrera, a policy advocate with CalChamber, echoed that SB251 would be an incentive for businesses to comply with ADA regulations. “Businesses in California want to encourage more customers to their business,” she stated, “and so we believe this is a huge incentive, again, to make sure that businesses are becoming compliant and are going to have access for all.”

CalChamber previously came out in support of this bill, calling it a “job creator.”

SB251 passed unopposed in the Senate and received a 10-0 vote in the Assembly Judiciary Committee, signaling positive reception from the rest of the Legislature.

“I thank my colleagues for supporting this common-sense, balanced measure to protect the disabled community and small businesses,” Sen. Roth said in a prepared statement.  “Senate Bill 251 is a critical step in guaranteeing access for disabled Californians by providing small businesses with the tools and resources necessary to comply with state and federal disability access laws.”

The bill now goes to the Assembly Committee on Revenue and Taxation for consideration.

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