By Scott Zucker
Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits private entities from discriminating against individuals with disabilities and maintaining places of business that are not physically accessible. The Act requires places of public accommodation to remove architectural barriers that limit access or use of the public place. The term “public accommodation” in the ADA generally encompasses all private businesses that offer goods and services to the public, including self-storage facilities.
Existing buildings, alterations and new construction are all within the scope of ADA's public-accommodation provisions. The ADA requires small businesses remove architectural barriers in existing facilities when it’s “readily achievable” to do so―this means easily accomplishable without much difficulty or expense. This requirement is based on business size and resources. Businesses with more resources are expected to remove more barriers than those with fewer.
Readily achievable barrier removal may include providing an accessible route from a parking lot to the entrance, installing an entrance ramp, widening a doorway, installing accessible door hardware, repositioning shelves, or moving tables, chairs, display racks, vending machines or other furniture.
A New Ruling
In 2010, the Department of Justice issued new Standards of Accessible Design. The Standards lay out accessibility design requirements for newly constructed and altered public accommodations and commercial facilities. Certain dates in the construction process determine which ADA standards—1991 or 2010—must be used. If the last or final building permit application for a new-construction or alterations project is certified before March 15, 2012, the business may comply with either set of standards. If physical construction starts after March 15, 2012, the business must use the 2010 standards.
Although self-storage operators are currently subject to all ADA building-access regulations applicable to structures in general, the 2010 standards included space accessibility “scoping requirements” that apply specifically to self-storage buildings. The storage-space regulations are: