ADA lawsuits to storefront businesses are a major issue throughout much of New York City. We have heard that lawsuits are picking up against businesses in Lower Manhattan over the last few weeks.
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires businesses to make “all reasonable accommodations” to their stores to ensure they are accessible to customers with disabilities. This is not limited to maintaining wheelchair access, but includes a wide range of elements in your physical business and store website.
Essentially all NoHo storefronts were built prior to the advent of the ADA, so unless you’re in a new building, your storefront likely is not fully accessible. Moreover, “all reasonable accommodations” is not well-defined and is subjective, so what you define as an attempt at a reasonable accommodation might not hold up in a court of law.
One of the biggest challenges is making your storefront accessible. Thankfully, New York City government, including Landmarks, makes it relatively easy for businesses to make their storefronts more accessible. Because almost all of NoHo is landmarked, we believe that the LPC Barrier Free Guide is perhaps the most relevant guide. Generally, LPC covers the exterior of buildings, but that’s often one of the biggest challenges of accessibility around here. For more business resources, the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) has a lot of great information. Click here to see their guides.
Ideally, every part of your store should be accessible. This blogpost has a good overview of the general, basic requirements that are needed. For more detailed guidance, you should reach out to a professional service to get help making sure your space is as accessible as it can be. Manhattan Community Board 2 recently had a fantastic discussion on this topic, and we will make sure to update this page when the recording is made public.
Last year, the Department of Justice also launched formal guidance on what websites need to include to be accessible. Click here to read more on website accessibility.
If you’re not familiar with the issues surrounding ADA lawsuits, it’s a complicated topic. Essentially, in New York and a handful of other states, the law is set up to allow for suits based on financial damages, not to fix the problem. This New York Times Article is a great deep dive into the issues surrounding these lawsuits. For more NYC specific information, this website has a lot of information.
Photo via WikiMedia Commons.