Accessible by Design: ADA Compliance for CRE

Apr 8, 2024

Things that many of us take for granted may not come as easy to those with differing abilities or physical challenges. EBI is committed to ensuring the projects we work on follow ADA requirements and accessibility standards so all people can use the spaces we help create. Our experts answered some common questions from clients in the commercial retail development space when it comes to ensuring ADA compliance.


What is ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal regulation that aims to protect people with disabilities from discrimination through a set of regulations developed by the Department of Justice that both state and local governments as well as businesses must follow.

What considerations should commercial retail developers consider when it comes to ADA compliance?

There are many components to consider when it comes to ADA compliance, but the following considerations come to mind:

  • ADA encompasses all disabilities
      • The scope of the ADA is designed to protect the rights of all individuals with disabilities, ensuring they have equal opportunities and access to various aspects of life. This includes mobility impairments, sensory impairments, cognitive and intellectual disabilities, mental health conditions, and any other disabilities that may impact one’s daily life and participation in society.
  • Who is legally responsible for ensuring a property is ADA compliant?
      • Both the landlord and the tenant are responsible for ensuring a property is ADA compliant. In the event of an ADA civil suit, both the tenant and the landlord can be considered and held liable.

Do ADA requirements differ by property type?

Under ADA, Title II regulations apply to public programs such as schools, transportation, healthcare and municipal offices. Title II is based around the people and necessary accommodations.

Title III regulations, however, deal with providing people equal access and opportunities to access goods or services. This includes buildings, telephones, internet, and documents. It does not apply to religious organizations or private clubs.

Residential projects have their own section of the accessibility code with some standards being different. Single residences do not need to be accessibly compliant, but any multi-tenant buildings must meet regulations. These include the number of accessible units, units with visual fire alarm indicators, roll in bathing facilities, and lower kitchen countertops.

Do ADA requirements differ by city or state?

Since ADA was established at a federal level, it affects each U.S. state the same. However, some states have additional regulations and requirements on top of the standard federal requirements. For example, many states have adopted the International Building Code and ANSI (American National Standards Institute) which have their own regulations for building construction and accessibility which is adopted at the state or city level. Additionally, some states have their own accessibility standards on top of the federal regulations. These states include but are not limited to Florida, Illinois, Texas, California, and Maryland.

What issues do you see clients running into most often when it comes to ADA and accessibility compliance? How does EBI work to solve these issues for them?

A lot of clients need guidance on what areas of work need to be upgraded on building remodels. An issue we often see is clients trusting someone who doesn’t have the extensive knowledge they need to create an accessible and compliant space. EBI has talked to a lot of building owners who hire a contractor to make their accessible parking spaces compliant, but the completed work ends up uncompliant anyway.

One of the most common complaints that customers have is that there are no automatic door openers; however, this is not required by any of the accessibility regulations. Lastly, some clients will run into issues with their properties only fulfilling part of an accessibility requirement, leaving them in violation despite efforts to comply with regulations.

What repercussions can developers and retail brands face for being uncompliant with accessibility regulations?

Businesses can be sued for discrimination if they do not comply with the accessibility regulations. We have seen suits for things like the letters over a check-out counter being smaller than regulation making it hard for people to read signage, to websites that do not have a voice function, to the only entry into a building being up a flight of stairs.

These lawsuits include both remediation of the issue and monetary damages. Some ADA violations are nicknamed ‘drive-by suits’, which are typically exterior violations of a building. These can range from issues like accessible parking spaces not being on the shortest accessible route to the accessible entry, no accessible path from the public sidewalk to the building, or incorrect parking space dimensions. These are all things that can be seen externally without someone even visiting your establishment.

ADA compliance made simple.

At EBI, our team possesses extensive expertise in ADA compliance, encompassing local, state, and federal regulations. Our professionals are dedicated to ensuring ADA compliance is diligently met at your property. From conducting comprehensive pre-construction and post-construction evaluations to thorough pre-purchase assessments, we identify compliant areas and highlight those requiring remediation.

Our comprehensive approach enables us to develop a comprehensive action plan, tailored to upgrade your building to meet ADA compliance standards. With our in-house architecture and civil teams collaborating seamlessly, we offer a convenient and efficient one-stop solution for achieving absolute ADA compliance.

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