Tips for Avoiding ADA Litigation (by Marie Trimble Holvick)

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by Marie Trimble Holvick

ADA claims remain a frustrating and costly source of litigation for Bay Area restaurants. Two well-known ADA plaintiff’s attorneys appear to be targeting SF restaurants, so now is the time to review your ADA compliance.

Here are three tips for avoiding claims:

(1) Make sure the lower section of your bar remains clear. Many bartenders use this section as storage or a drying rack. Although space is tight, it’s important to keep that area clear.

(2) Train servers on the appropriate aisle between tables. The aisle needs to be wide enough for wheelchair-bound guests to get to the restroom. This is known as the “path of travel.”  Your servers need to be trained to tell a guest “no” when they try to add a chair to the end of the table (i.e. in the aisle) or push tables together.

(3) The restroom is typically the target of ADA claims.  Educate yourself on the basic requirements for restrooms. Examples of important requirements include the weight of the door, the height of towel dispensers or hand dryers, the amount of space for a wheelchair’s turning radius, the location of hand bars in stalls, and appropriate coverings for exposed pipes.

Finally, a relatively new area of ADA litigation involves accessible websites.  A restaurant’s website must be accessible to the blind and visually impaired. This is particularly important if you provide online food ordering or online reservations. It is important to hire a web designer who is familiar with accessibility guidelines and can ensure that your website is compatible with accessibility software.

Marie Trimble Holvick is a partner in the Employment Group of Gordon & Rees. Marie regularly defends restaurants in ADA litigation. Please contact Marie at mholvick@grsm.com for additional questions regarding ADA claims.

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