The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires businesses to make reasonable accommodations for those with recognized disabilities, but only if those businesses fall within the ambit of the law.
If your business is on the small side or doesn't cater to the public, it may not need to comply with the ADA.
How can you tell if your business falls under the ADA? Here are some general guidelines:
ADA Titles I and III
Although the ADA prohibits discrimination based on disability and requires reasonable accommodations in both the private and public sectors, Title I and Title III of the ADA are the ones most applicable to small private business owners.
Title I of the ADA covers areas of private employment, and requires eligible businesses to provide employees with equal opportunity to enjoy privileges of employment. It also prohibits discrimination based on disability.
Title III of the ADA focuses on private and public entities that are considered "public accommodations," and requires that businesses not discriminate against customers based on disability, including providing reasonable access.
Still, for either of these titles, certain businesses may not have to comply with the ADA's standards.
Title I Compliance
The ADA defines "employer" as any person:
This means if your business only has 14 or fewer full-time employees, or is only in business for less than 20 weeks a year, then you do not have to comply with Title I.
Businesses entirely owned by a federally recognized Native American tribe are also exempt from Title I, as well as any tax-exempt private membership club.
Title III Compliance
As far as Title III is concerned, only businesses considered "public accommodations" are required to comply. The federal law offers this non-exhaustive list of public accomodations:
Essentially, any business that regularly serves the public is considered a public accommodation, but private clubs or religious organizations are considered exempt.
Business owners should remember that federal disability law under the ADA is only one part of disability law in any state; there are also corresponding state laws that prohibit discrimination based on disability both in employment and in public accommodations, like California's Unruh Civil Rights Act.
Because disability laws can get complicated, it may be best to consult an experienced disability lawyer to make sure your company is in compliance.