For truckstops and travel plazas, complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) not only boosts customer service, it is the law. Violating ADA requirements results in hefty fines, and delaying improvements now could lead to more extensive renovations later.
When President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990, he inaugurated a sweeping piece of legislation designed to ensure equal opportunity in employment, state and local government services, public and commercial businesses and transportation for people with disabilities.
With this mandate of increased accessibility came increased regulation for the many businesses, including truckstops and travel plazas, that must comply with the ADA. The serious implications of that regulation were clear on July 15, 2010, when the Department of Justice announced a settlement with QuikTrip Corp., the owner and operator of more than 550 gas stations, convenience stores, truckstops and travel centers, stemming from ADA violations involving inaccessible parking. As part of the settlement, QuikTrip agreed to pay $1.5million in compensation, a penalty of $55,000, and to make all of its facilities ADA compliant in the next three years.
Just 11 days after the QuikTrip settlement was announced, President Obama announced final regulations revising the ADA, including the ADA Standards for Accessible Design, in celebration of the legislation’s 20th anniversary.
The 2010 revisions to parts of the rule took effect on March 15 of this year, while compliance with the far-reaching 2010 Standards for Accessible Design is not required until March 15, 2012.One thing is clear, however: For truckstop owners and operators the time to act is now.
According to James Terry, chief executive officer of Evan Terry Associates, P.C. and an architect specializing in the ADA and accessible design, there are more than 1,000 changes between the original 1991 standards and the 2010 revisions, most requiring facilities to be more accessible. Facilities that are not yet compliant with the 1991 standards (and according to Terry most facilities are not) have until March 15, 2012, to become compliant. After that, any facility that didn’t make the deadline will be required to adhere to the new, often stricter standards.
Though the 2012 date is still about a year away, it is vital that truckstop owners and operators educate themselves now about the ADA and begin taking steps to achieve compliance. As Terry explains, the new standards have created an “increased buzz” with private plaintiffs and the Department of Justice paying particular attention to facility accessibility.
According to Terry, “for the most part there is a lot of work still undone” when it comes to ADA compliance in America’s truckstops and travel plazas. While he doesn’t expect any more significant changes to the ADA standards for another 10 to 20 years, Terry explains that the 2010 revisions serve to encourage business owners to “make the proper fixes to their facilities to accommodate the growing numbers of customers with disabilities, a demographic which already includes 15-20 percent of the total U.S. population.”
NATSO’s new ADA Compliance Toolkit will help truckstop owners and operators understand the ADA in order to make the proper fixes and become compliant. The ADA toolkit is now available online here.
This article originally ran in Stop Watch magazine. Stop Watch provides in-depth content to assist NATSO members in improving their travel plaza business operations and provides context on trends and news affecting the industry.
The magazine is mailed to NATSO members bimonthly. If you are a member and not receiving Stop Watch, submit a request to be added to the mailing list. Not a member? Join today or submit a request to receive additional information.
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