News & Information: Risk Management Resource

ADA: It's Not Just About Wheelchair Cccess

Thursday, June 30, 2016  
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ADA regulations for small businesses involve more than wheelchair access

By Anne Alsup

If you think that the Americans with Disabilities Act only pertains to access to your building and restrooms, you need to rethink. The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law in 1990 and expanded through an amendment act in 2008 to provide even broader definitions for disability. Real estate professionals need to pay attention.

Suppose a hearing impaired customer has asked you to assist with the purchase of a home and requested that you provide a sign language translator to explain the complexities of the transaction. Do you decline because you do not know how to sign or because providing sign language services would be too expensive? You may want to consult with an attorney before you do, because the ADA requires businesses to provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities. For something simple like choosing an item from a menu or choosing between colors or style at a clothing store, the definition of reasonable might be as easy a pointing to a picture or writing a note, but for a detailed real estate transaction the ADA does not consider that reasonable. For a more detailed description of what is considered reasonable the ADA has provided a small-business guide.

In 2010, the Department of Justice, who is tasked with the enforcement of the ADA, took the position that Title III of the ADA which governs access to businesses also pertains to website access. Although there is not an official ruling, lawsuits are being filed and case law is developing. Does your website provide “reasonable accommodation” under the law? If a video only provides graphics, is there audio for those who cannot see the images? If there is audio, are captions provided for individuals who cannot hear the audio? Does your website have strobe effects or images that might have implications for someone with epilepsy? Web designer Nicole Nash discusses ADA compliance in her article, “Creating an ADA-compliant website." One read of the article and you know that the days of hiring a novice to design your website are over. The National Association of REALTORS®, in a recent video,  recommends that you hire a technical consultant with extensive knowledge of “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0."

ADA issues are expanding rapidly and rightfully so. All Americans, regardless of disabilities, should have access to the same services. The National Association of REALTORS® realizes this need and provides an ADA Compliance Kit to members on their national website. Stay abreast of ADA changes, as they are sure to have a profound effect on the way we conduct business.

Anne Alsup, Coldwell Banker RE, is a member of the ORRA Professional Development Forum. She can be reached at

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