Small-business owners face a growing number of disabled-access lawsuits in the wake of a recent appeals-court ruling giving rise to disabled “testers,” as well as the release of detailed federal specifications for curb ramps, self-opening doors and other standards.
For the year through June 30, plaintiffs filed 1,939 lawsuits under a section of the federal disability law setting out accessibility requirements for businesses and other public places. That’s up nearly 55% from 1,254 over the year-earlier period.
Most business owners say they want to provide accessibility options for disabled customers. But once barriers to access are identified, many say the legal process of defending themselves from lawsuits is too onerous, according to Adam Saravay, a partner at McCarter & English in New Jersey. Under the current law, businesses aren’t given a “grace period” to fix accessibility issues, once a lawsuit is filed, he adds.
“The biggest complaint I get from my small-business clients is that the first they hear about a compliance issue is when they’re being sued,” said Mr. Saravay.