Businesses must be accessible to people with disabilities. Both California and federal law set specific requirements to ensure that physical barriers do not prevent such access. Below is a collection of resources for small business owners–including links to state and federal accessible design standards, advisory manuals, frequently asked questions, and toolkits–to help small business owners understand the law and make their businesses accessible.
California Resources for Physical Barriers/Accessible Design Standards: All buildings in the State of California are subject to the California Building Standards Code (the “Code”). In addition to general building requirements such as occupancy, building height and construction materials, the Code also sets out accessible design standards. This section includes links to the Code and other resources designed to help business owners make their buildings accessible.
California Division of the State Architect (DSA) Trainings and Technical Assistance: DSA develops accessibility, structural safety, and historical building codes and standards utilized in various public and private buildings throughout the State of California. The DSA website and staff offer a variety of resources to assist business owners in reaching accessible design compliance:
California Small Business Loans for ADA Improvements: The California Capital Access Program (CalCAP) Americans with Disabilities Act (CalCAP/ADA) Financing Program assists small businesses with financing the costs of altering or retrofitting existing small business facilities to comply with the requirements of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.
Certified Accessibility Specialist (CASp) Program: A CASp is an expert who has passed a state examination to become certified in the applicability of state and federal construction-related accessibility standards. An architect or engineer can review a building for access design standard compliance, but only a CASp has the State’s certification of accessible design expertise and only a CASp inspection can qualify a small business for the safe harbors outlined below. The California Department of General Services offers resources to find a CASp.
Legal Safe Harbors for Small Businesses (SB 269): In 2016, the California legislature enacted SB 269, which amended the California Civil Code and Government Code to provide small businesses (defined by number of employees and average annual gross receipts) with certain protections from liability under California law for technical violations of accessible design standards. (Civ. Code, §§ 55.53 and 55.56; Gov. Code, §§ 4459.7-4459.8; 8299.06; 65941.6; 65946.) Specifically, SB 269 provides the following:
California Department of Rehabilitation (DOR): DOR is a state agency that provides vocational training and other related services to people with disabilities. In addition to working with businesses to employ people with disabilities, DOR offers several resources to help businesses understand and comply with accessible design standards.
Local Building Departments: Local jurisdictions may offer technical assistance regarding state building code compliance through the local building department or building inspector. These resources generally focus on local and state accessibility requirements, but businesses can also consult with a CASp, as described above, to ensure compliance with federal requirements as well. Check the California Architects Board website to find your local building department.
Some local jurisdictions have webpages and publications with information about accessibility for people with disabilities. Here are some examples in alphabetical order by jurisdiction:
Federal Accessible Design Standards: In addition to the California Building Standards Code, businesses must also comply with applicable federal accessible design standards. As described above, a CASp is certified in state and federal accessible design standards and can help small businesses understand which standards apply to their business and how to implement them.
Federal ADA Guidance for Small Businesses: The United States Department of Justice (U.S. DOJ) Civil Rights Division maintains a website dedicated to facilitating compliance with the ADA.
Federal Tax Incentives: Two federal tax incentives are available to help cover costs of making access improvements for people with disabilities.