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ADA: the time for compliance is now.

THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILIties Act (ADA) of 1990 is now law. Plan to be in compliance; learn about the ADA now. Penalties for noncompliance can be as much as $50,000 for a first notice and up to $100,000 for subsequent notices.

When President Bush signed the world's first comprehensive civil rights law for people with disabilities on July 26, 1990, it was an historic benchmark and a milestone in America's commitment to full and equal opportunity for all people.

The intent of the ADA is to ensure that people with disabilities have access to employment, public accommodations, commercial facilities, government services, transportation, and telecommunications.

The law is broad in terms of the definition of disability as well as the entities covered and their responsibilities. The ADA was deliberately written in nebulous terms. The vagueness of the language regarding compliance with its regulations promises to be a challenge to all businesses, facilities, and organizations.

To ensure that people with disabilities--approximately 43 million Americans--have access to products and services, certain rules apply to all situations. Other aspects of the law vary based on certain details, such as whether a facility requires no renovation work, alterations are scheduled, or it is a new construction project. The statutory deadline for many parts of the ADA was January 26, 1992. Ignorance of the law is no defense for noncompliance.

The ADA is fundamentally different from other federal civil rights statutes, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, or sex. In addition to providing categorical prohibitions that affect whole classes of people, the ADA ties an employer's obligations in many cases to the specific needs of an individual with a disability and the financial resources of the employer. This makes for countless unique sets of circumstances.

The term "handicapped individual" has been replaced by "individual with a disability" in the language used in the ADA. According to many advocacy groups for people who are disabled, the reason for the change from the more familiar term--handicapped individual--is that the majority of disabled people think this term is linked to patronizing attitudes and stereotypes.

THE ADA WILL HAVE AN IMPACT ON THE 43 million people with disabilities in the United States. It will also have an impact on nearly every business, organization, or government agency, with few exceptions. Even such organizations as private clubs and places of worship that are not required to comply fully have to be aware of the specific areas in which they must comply.

Making general assumptions about what all people with a certain disability can or cannot do is illegal under the ADA.

To test your knowledge of the capabilities of Americans with disabilities, answer the following questions:

* Can a person who is blind operate a computer?

* Is it alright to have a former substance abuser or alcoholic operate manufacturing equipment?

* Can a person who is a quadriplegic work?

* Is it safe for a person with epilepsy to run machinery?

If you answered these questions with any answer other than "it depends on the individual" or "I don't know," you may be making assumptions that are illegal under the ADA.

The ADA places certain obligations on employers and businesses. These obligations, together with the rights of individuals who are disabled, make up the parts--or titles--of the ADA. They are broken down as follows:

Title I: Employment. This title prohibits discrimination in employment against qualified individuals with disabilities.

Title II: Public Services. This title prohibits discrimination in programs run by public entities, such as state and local governments or agencies, including public transportation.

Title III: Public Accommodations. The requirements of this title extend to owners, operators, and lessees of public accommodations. The provisions on alterations and new construction apply to owners, operators, and lessees of both public accommodations and commercial facilities. The transportation provisions extend to private entities, whether or not they are primarily engaged in providing transportation services.

Exclusions to this title include religious organizations or entities controlled by religious organizations, including places of worship; private clubs or establishments exempted from coverage under the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and commercial facilities that are covered or expressly exempted under the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

Title IV: Telecommunications. This title requires all common carriers to provide nationwide Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS) no later than July 26, 1993. TRS is a new telephone service that allows people with hearing or speech disabilities to use the telephone.

TRS facilities are specially equipped and staffed by communications assistants who relay conversations between people who use text telephones and people who use the general telephone network. The term "text telephone" replaces the term "telecommunications device for the deaf" (TDD). Text telephones are machines that have a keyboard readout display. Coded signals are sent and received by text telephones through telephone lines.

Any state may choose to set up its own TRS if the facility meets or exceeds the minimum standards established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Title V: Miscellaneous. This title consists of various technical provisions, such as attorneys' fees, prohibitions against retaliation and coercion, and amendments to the rehabilitation act. It contains some of the technical details of the act in general.

YOUR ORGANIZATION MUST UNDERSTAND the ADA to make informed decisions on what corrective action to take to be in compliance.

To begin, form an ADA compliance committee including representatives from executive management, human resources, security, facilities, operations, customer service, finance, and legal departments. This cross section of participants should provide enough input to evaluate a proposed action. An action that may be good for one aspect of the operation might have a negative impact on other parts.

The steps of the compliance initiative are identify, educate, plan, implement, monitor, and assess. Educating yourself and your employees about the ADA is the lowest cost solution with the highest return on investment for your organization.

The benefits of learning how to combine the ADA with security and the goodwill that will be developed are just the beginning. Consider the benefit to your organization's public image if you have an ADA compliance program. A corporation or organization that does not address ADA compliance leaves itself open to lawsuits and fines.

During 15 years as a security specialist, I have found that the one non-security concern that always has an impact on security is life safety. When examining the issues of life safety and security, the challenge is to consistently integrate these two fundamental requirements effectively into security and protection plans.

ADA now shares a prominent position with the life safety issue in the security design process. By its mandated specifications, the ADA presents conditions that if unaddressed may inadvertently create security hazards.

As a security professional, you may be able to save your organization thousands of dollars in costs to comply with the ADA. When reviewing your organization's operations and facilities to meet the obligations of the ADA, legitimate safety considerations, including crime prevention, can be taken into account.

Consider the example of a bank's teller counters. They are a certain height, providing an increased measure of security. Although these counters may impose a barrier to individuals in wheelchairs, safety must be considered, which includes crime prevention.

The high level of the teller counters provides security protection, and because alternatives can be implemented, lowering the counters--and the cost involved in doing so--may not be required.

Certain costs are associated with complying with the ADA. Management should acknowledge the fact that funds will be allocated to meet these obligations and understand the importance of having security involved in the ADA compliance plan. It is equally critical to the corporation or organization that those responsible for safety and security learn the particulars about the ADA to preclude unnecessary corporate spending.

The ADA will be enforced by the Department of Justice. Private suits may be filed in a civil action. The plaintiff may request preventive relief, such as a restraining order, or injunctive relief ordering alteration of a facility so it is accessible to individuals with disabilities.

The US attorney general may institute a civil action and also demand equitable relief. In addition, the attorney general may request monetary damages for aggrieved individuals plus civil penalties.

The information presented in this article only touches on the many components of the ADA. The more you learn about the ADA, the better you can understand how it applies to you and how your organization can diminish the threat of litigation, reduce the cost of compliance, and maximize available resources.

Peter Lindemann, CPS (certified professional specialist), is executive director of Star Architectural Security in New York City and a principal in Crime Prevention Associates International with headquarters in Kulpsville, PA. He is a member of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
Author:Lindemann, Peter
Publication:Security Management
Date:Sep 1, 1992
Words:1450
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