Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some retail stores, restaurants, and other sales and service establishments have modified their entrances, or the way people are able to shop and enjoy a meal. While taking precautions for the health and safety of customers is important, the presence of a pandemic does not negate these business’ obligations under the ADA.
Sales and service establishments are public accommodations under Title III of the ADA and must comply with the laws and rules related to accessible parking, routes, and entrances. Specifically, accessible parking must be on the shortest route to an accessible entrance. An accessible route includes not only the distance from the parking to the entrance, but also the presence and maintenance of curb cuts, sidewalks, and pedestrian crossing lines. With some businesses closing one or more entrances to their store or adding barricades to direct foot traffic, accessible parking may no longer be on the shortest route to an open and accessible entrance. This is a clear violation of the ADA.
The ADA requires a specific number of accessible parking spaces to be available depending on the total amount of spaces in the lot and so, if entrances are no longer open, stores must also make modifications to their parking lot to increase the amount of accessible spaces available on the shortest route to the currently open entrance.
The ADA requires that sidewalks be at least three feet in width. As outdoor dining and shopping options become more common, restaurants and retailers must ensure that sidewalks and curb cuts are not blocked by tables, clothing racks, or other barriers. When a business puts tables or other items on the sidewalk, there must be at least three feet between the obstruction and the edge of the sidewalk to allow for safe passage.
Even during a pandemic, people with disabilities have the right to access their community without discrimination. Contact us if you have a question about accessing a business or if you wish to speak with an attorney about a disability-related issue.