What You Should Know About Accessibility Compliance & Older Buildings


The Americans With Disabilities Act requires businesses to provide reasonable access to people with disabilities. There are design provisions and rules that are readily available to all builders and designers. Older buildings also have to be in compliance with the ADA, but there are a few exceptions granted to them. In general, the following rules apply to older buildings:

  • The requirements of the ADA must be met even if they weren’t  part of the local building code when they were originally built. There is no “grandfathering” under the ADA! 
  • Buildings built or modified under the 1991 ADA rules don’t have to automatically comply with new regulations.
  • Buildings built under the 1991 standards and later remodeled, must make any new accessibility features under the newest set of ADA rules. The latest regulations were enacted in 2010.

The ADA Does Not Punish Businesses

You might hear the ADA is unfairly punitive to businesses. That it makes companies make significant changes that will bankrupt or drive them out of business. That’s not true. The ADA has an element-by-element policy when it comes to making businesses modify their buildings.

Businesses are also treated differently depending on their sizes and resources. The ADA also has a policy of only requiring changes that are “readily achievable.” The definition of “readily achievable” is, “easily accomplishable without much difficulty or expense.”

The ADA also provides a suggested list of the order businesses might approach removing barriers. They suggest companies:

  • Provide access from public areas like sidewalks and parking lots.
  • Provide access to the products and services of the business.
  • Provide access to public restrooms.
  • Finally, they provide access to any amenities the business has for other customers. Services like drinking fountains, pay phones, ATM’s, etc.

It only makes good sense for a business to comply with the ADA as much as possible. After all, people with disabilities spend money too, and companies don’t want to miss out on profit!

If you feel you’ve been denied access in violation of the ADA, contact Access Advocates. We have been helping people with disabilities enjoy their access rights for over 22 years.