Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act imposes a proactive duty on businesses subject to the ADA to remove architectural barriers and other obstacles that impede disabled persons’ access to an existing public accommodation. For years, lawmakers have grappled with how to protect disabled persons and, at the same time, not overburden those subject to the ADA. The House of Representatives’ so-called ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 620) introduced earlier this year appears to be gaining some momentum after the House Judiciary Committee voted to advance it on September 7. Disabled persons interest groups are opposed to this bill, contending that it would chill businesses from being proactive about ensuring that disabled persons have access to their facilities.
In contrast, for years, businesses subject to the ADA have struggled to comply with the ADA and to contend with what they perceive as meritless complaints filed by drive-by plaintiffs alleging ADA violations without ever encountering a barrier to access. For new construction subject to the ADA, an occupancy permit issued by a local jurisdiction (or a building inspection), although not required to ensure ADA compliance, will often require review of the project for compliance with the accessibility requirements. Ensuring compliance with the access requirements for existing developments and redevelopments in many cases poses greater challenges because, as originally constructed, the structure may not have design features that are conducive to ADA compliance, requiring extraordinary expenditures to bring them into compliance.