City of San Francisco Helps Businesses Avoid Predatory Lawsuits with the Accessible Business Entrance Program

California accounts for more than 40% of the United States’ Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) legal claims filed.

A majority of these claims are filed by a relatively few predatory individuals who make millions of dollars every year by filing hundreds of accessibility lawsuits.

Many predatory individuals use Google Earth to look for victims, making parking lots and path of travel to entries the most common source of claims. To help business owners avoid these financial losses, the City of San Francisco has put Ordinance No. 51-16 in place, the mandatory Accessible Business Entrance (ABE) Program. 

To business owners who have not fallen victim to a predatory accessibility lawsuit, this new program may seem burdensome.  From my viewpoint as a certified CASp (California Accessibility Specialist) who has personally worked with many small business owners who fell victim to these lawsuits, it’s not a burden but a helping hand to aid small businesses from being hit with a financial loss.

San Francisco Ordinance No. 51-16 mandates business and/or property owners have a Certified Access Specialist (CASp) inspect the primary entrances and the path of travel. The CASp lists deficiencies and proposed remediation on the CATEGORY CHECKLIST COMPLIANCE FORM. This Form lets owners know where the entry and path of travel are not in compliance.

The complexity of deficiencies may require architectural drawings and specifications before the owner can get a construction cost estimate from a General Contractor and file the application for required building permits. In some cases, compliance only requires replacing door hardware so no permit is required. Even when a permit is not required, it’s a good idea to have the design professional specify or confirm the selected hardware meets current codes.

I have always thought the Federal Government should have made building accessibility a building code mandate enforced by building departments, rather than a civil right enforced by attorneys and the courts.  Apparently the City of San Francisco agrees with me as their Ordinance No. 51-16 mandates building entrances be made accessible and is being enforced by the Dept. of Building Inspection.

Photo credit: Aude