Ms. Rose

ADA Compliance

ADA Compliance and Your Bottom Line

By Clara Rose, President & Creative Director, Creative Alliance

According to the U.S. Department of Justice's ADA statistics, 18% of all Americans fall under the ADA provisions, with that number steadily increasing. That is almost 20% of your potential employees, owners or guests; that have different abilities, which may require special accommodations.

The ADA Community

This number includes a wide variety of persons from all walks of life, some you may not have considered.

Consider the impact of the baby boomers - over 75,000,000 strong (not including immigrants). This is the generation that began in 1946 with the end of World War II as the troops came home. It ended in 1964 when the birth control pill became available. 1946 to 1964 gave life to the single largest generation of Americans. That demographic continues to shape our society today and will do so long into the future.

Let's do the math, starting with January 1st 1946 lets add 65 years (the age these boomers become eligible to start retiring) and what do you get? January 1st, 2011. The influential generation that brought us the minivan, disposable diapers and more… has started to retire!

This equates to more than a quarter of the U.S. population that's a part of this colossal group. Somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 everyday of the year for the next 19 years! How many of these baby boomers have - or will have in the future - different abilities that require special accommodations?

Additionally, consumers over the age of 50 (well before the age of retirement) often experience changes in vision, hearing and mobility that affect how they interact with businesses and their products. This segment of the population, at least in part, may not be included in the ADA statistics. A noteworthy statistic - according to the Census Bureau more than 50% of the U.S. discretionary income is controlled by those that are 50 years old and older. This group definitely has the power to impact revenues and the bottom line for the hospitality industry.

Now consider the other end of the age spectrum. Children with different abilities and their families face many challenges in everyday life, accommodations for travel and vacations need not be one of them. With an estimated 3 million children (ages 5-15 years) that have different abilities - the hospitality industry definitely needs to include this group of citizens and their families. These families are also very likely to be a part of an educational or support group, making them a valuable referral source for any business.

Another growing group to consider in the U.S. population is the injured who have returned and continue to return, from the conflicts since the end of WW II. While it is unclear what the exact numbers are, it is obvious that they number in the hundreds of thousands. These continue to be young men and women, who have many years of life left to live - but have different abilities that may require special accommodations.

Whatever the age group or reason, 18% of Americans have different abilities that may require special accommodations. As significant as this number is, it only represents a portion of the population that it includes. When you factor in the family members and friends of this 18% of the population, they become a formidable group that represents a significant number of revenue dollars.

Understanding the Costs

It is clear that the ADA community is a valuable and significant part of the potential clientele for the hospitality industry. So, what about the costs associated with becoming ADA complaint or friendly? Businesses that provide goods or services to the public are called "public accommodations" by the DOJ (Department of Justice) and have a number of established ADA requirements. Nearly all types of businesses that serve the public are included, regardless of the size of the business or the age of their buildings. Public accommodations covered by the ADA are required to modify their business policies and procedures when necessary to serve customers with different abilities. This requirement is for "reasonable modifications" which usually involve only minor adjustments in policies that result in very little actual cost for the business.

Additionally they are mandated to take steps to communicate effectively with customers that have communication impairments. Because the nature of communications differs from business to business and person to person, the rules allow for flexibility in determining effective communication solutions.

The ADA also requires public accommodation businesses to remove architectural barriers in existing buildings and make sure that newly built or altered facilities are constructed to be accessible to individuals with different abilities. The removal of barriers is required in existing facilities when it is "readily achievable" to do so, which means "easily accomplishable without much difficulty or expense".

The ADA strikes a careful balance between increasing access and recognizing the financial constraints many small businesses face. Its flexible requirements allow businesses that have limited resources and can prove it to be a financial hardship, to improve accessibility without excessive expense. Larger businesses with more resources are expected to remove more barriers than businesses with fewer resources.

Beyond the required removal of architectural barriers and policy changes, there are some simple and relatively inexpensive ways to become a more ADA friendly public accommodation.

• Re-stripe the parking lot to include more ADA compliant spaces and loading zones.
• Change out the faucets with lever, cross/six-prong or T-handles and Touchless™.
• Offer audio recordings of written materials for the low vision or vision impaired guests.
• Install grab bars in restrooms and other appropriate areas.
• Install emergency strobe lights and bed shakers for the hearing impaired guest.
• Install signs that include Braille for the visually impaired.

There are a number of reputable companies around the nation that offer an ADA Compliance Surveys. These compliance surveys are an inexpensive tool that can be used to discover how ADA compliant your property is. This report should also offer remediation recommendations for becoming compliant.

When undertaking ADA compliance remediation, be sure to use a contractor that specializes in ADA renovations. They are best suited since they have an understanding of the requirements.

Understanding the Benefits

Because the costs of ADA compliance are considered when talking about revenues and the bottom line - congress has made two kinds of tax incentives available to businesses that help them to offset the costs of complying. For the smaller business (30 or fewer employees or revenues of $1 million or less) the Disabled Access Credit is available. This is a credit of up to $5000 a year, to be used to offset business costs associated with barrier removal, communication aids, interpreters or other steps taken to improve accessibility. (The amount of tax credit is equal to 50% of the eligible expenditures in a given year, up to a maximum expenditure of $10,250.00. The first $250.00 of expenditures is not included so the maximum credit is $5,000.00.) More information about this tax credit can be found in section 44 of the IRS tax code. http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=185704,00.html

Additionally, under section 190 of the IRS tax code, businesses of any size can take a deduction of up to $15,000 each year for the cost of removing barriers in facilities or the purchase of vehicles. These incentives can be used in combination, if the expenditures qualify under both Section 190 and Section 44 of the IRS tax code. http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=185704,00.html

Businesses are allowed to take advantage of these incentives every year to make their facilities, goods and services more accessible. This creates an opportunity for continued improvements based on a budgeted compliance plan; an ADA construction specialist can assist with this process.

Both incentives, the credit and the deduction, are available for removing barriers in existing facilities but the credit is also available for providing effective communication or taking other steps to improve accessibility. (Neither of the incentives applies to the costs of new construction which should be built into the project in accordance to the new accessibility standards.)

The Bottom Line

Tax incentives are helpful and always welcome, but what are the benefits that will produce actual revenue and improve the bottom line?

• Improved guest flow, time is money
• Increased safety and security
• Increased marketing position and community relations
• Increased guest satisfaction and positive customer relations
• Increased effectiveness of long term compliance planning
• Increased retention (Employees or guest with points based programs)
• Increased frequency of repeat business
• Increased occupancy from referrals and a wider customer base
• Increased positive, customer focused, image

A number of studies have shown that once a person with different abilities finds a business, where they can stay or get services in an accessible manner, they become repeat customers… along with their extended families.

With nearly a quarter of the population looking for accessible ways to travel and places to vacation - the hospitality industry can greatly benefit from being ADA compliant.

The business owners and hospitality properties that recognize the ADA community and their potential revenue contributions, surely have the edge. Many of these companies are working hard to be not just ADA compliant but truly ADA friendly. They are making a difference, while capturing some of the revenue dollars that affect the bottom line.

Clara Rose is the founder of Creative Alliance and co-founder of Nationwide Compliance Alliance. She believes that business success is not accidental, merely the implementation of a sound strategy and the correct tools. Ms. Rose finds great reward in equipping entrepreneurs and business owners with the tools and pieces for business success. As a professional speaker, trainer and author; Clara works with teams to help them create a culture of understanding and sensitivity in the workplace and equips professionals with tools and insights. Additionally, she speaks and writes about the different forms of communication that are an integral part of business life with Customers, Colleagues and Co-workers. Ms. Rose can be contacted at 941-284-8640 or Clara@ClaraRose.com Extended Bio...

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