Commercial properties ranging from shops and restaurants to places of work, such as offices, must comply with regulations set out in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, lawsuits are rising against non-compliant buildings while other groups are often ignored. The major focus for compliance is with physical accessibility which ranges from visual impairment to wheelchair access. Few, however, have been changed for those with autism.
ADA, It’s Importance, and Areas of Coverage
The ADA was created in order to allow more people to access public and commercial buildings including restaurants, retail stores, hotels, movie theaters, private schools, doctor’s offices, zoos, homeless shelters, and so on. Enforced by the Department of Justice, the ADA means all buildings must have adequate accessibility and safety provisions for people with disabilities.
Meeting These Requirements
Commercial property owners who follow the rules have nothing to fear from the ADA. The aim is to eliminate discrimination so means buildings first occupied after 1993 must be accessible. A quick assessment can be done to ensure there is suitable lifts, ramps, and other mobility solutions so anyone can come in, use, and leave the premises.
It is best for landlords to adhere to the following tips:
1. Do not assume the building is automatically compliant – if it is not, there’s no excuse and there could be an expensive lawsuit
2. Negotiate all leases carefully and ensure that those you are letting the property to understand their responsibilities
3. Have the building inspected via a CASp professional
4. Understand all disabilities and accessibility/mobility issues – this should include those prone to sensory overload such as people on the autism spectrum
Commercial Buildings and Autism
It must be noted that in the ADA, few provisions are made for those on the autism spectrum. Study of this area was severely held back by poor research and thinking under Leo Kanner and his acolytes. Even today, the condition is misunderstood. While building owners look at solutions for the visually impaired, those with hearing impediments, mental illness, asthma, and mobility issues, they forget sensory overload.
Buildings can be made, at least some of the time, more inviting for those on the autism spectrum. For example, some businesses have introduced autism hours where lights are dimmed, there are less shoppers, music is turned off or at least down, and checkouts are made quieter. These may sound like small things but for people who experience sensory overload, it can be the difference between staying home and braving a visit.