back to Screen-Friendly page

Bar Association of San Francisco Member Benefits: Publications

ADA Compliance – How Lawyer Referral and Information Service is Helping Spread the Word


By Emmy Pasternak, LRIS Community Outreach and Case Development Coordinator

As reported previously in the BASF Bulletin and in recent articles in The San Francisco Chronicle, the number of lawsuits against small businesses related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) continues to rise. Since 2005, there have been more than 4,800 lawsuits in California, and more than 300 in San Francisco. Many of the businesses targeted are owned by non-English speakers who feel forced to quickly settle or close their businesses out of fear.

Greater education and awareness about the ADA might have allowed for more thoughtful, rational decisions to have been made. For over a year, Lawyer Referral and Information Service, in partnership with the San Francisco Office of Small Business, has been committed to arranging educational seminars about the ADA and compliance solutions, emphasizing that compliance offers the best insurance against a lawsuit and a good way for businesses to expand their consumer base. In June,

LRIS staff conducted another such seminar at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce which was attended by attorneys, business owners, and members of the disabled community. The program provided invaluable information to attendees, many of whom stayed after the seminar to ask questions and thank the presenters.

LRIS ADA Compliance Workshop

ADA compliance requires that “readily achievable” barrier removal be done, but what constitutes “readily achievable” is highly technical (e.g., the exact height of counters or the percentage incline of a ramp to travel over a front step). It is almost always recommended that an inspection be done by a Certified Accessibility Specialist (CASp). Such an inspection and resultant plan of action can help protect a business in a lawsuit.

Another point of emphasis in the seminars is that consumers with disabilities have an estimated annual purchasing power of $220B. Your aging father whose arthritic knees hamper his ability to get up and down the stairs of a restaurant is part of that group. Not only does the restaurant miss out on his business, it misses out on the revenue from his family and friends who otherwise would be dining with him. The aging, consumer savvy Baby Boomer generation will increasingly seek out businesses that are easy to access and choose not to patronize those which are not.

For legal assistance, LRIS maintains a panel of attorneys with the qualifications to represent commercial tenants and landlords who have concerns or may need help with litigation. LRIS will continue to bring new and relevant information to BASF members, business owners, and consumers regarding this important topic.

To learn more about ADA compliance topic and help us spread the word to your business clients and colleagues, please visit our ADA compliance webpage and follow updates posted on Twitter @SFlawyerref and Facebook

Our partners at BASFAhern Insurance Brokerage