What does inclusivity compliance mean for small businesses? The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that all companies provide “reasonable accommodations” to employees and customers with disabilities. However, many small business owners are unaware of their obligations under the ADA or what they will face if non-compliant. They are also unaware of the benefits they can reap from compliance, apart from avoiding government censure.
How Small Businesses Must Comply with the ADA
Small business owners often believe some common myths about the ADA. One is that they do not have to comply with the law if they have fewer than 15 employees. Another is that the rule only applies to businesses with physical locations. In fact, all companies, regardless of size or location, must comply with the ADA.
Businesses with physical locations may have to make changes to the workplace or provide accessible customer service as “reasonable accommodations” to employees and customers with disabilities. Businesses that operate completely online must also accommodate the needs of employees and customers with disabilities.
What Are Reasonable Accommodations?
Reasonable accommodations are any changes to the workplace or the way that a business provides goods or services that allow an individual with a disability to participate in the workforce or enjoy the same level of customer service as everyone else. There are many types of reasonable accommodations, but the following are the most basic.
Businesses must make the physical workplace accessible for employees and customers with disabilities. This includes providing wheelchair ramps, wide doorways and corridors, Braille signage, and accessible restrooms and parking.
Businesses must also provide customer service that is accessible to people with disabilities. This includes providing assistive technologies, such as installing software for customers who are deaf and hard of hearing to translate all auditory speech into text. For visually impaired customers, text-to-speech software will translate all visual information into spoken information. It also means ensuring that customer service representatives are trained to communicate with people who have hearing or vision impairments. They must, for instance, provide Braille or large print materials upon request.
Online, the company website must be accessible to people who are hearing impaired by having text captions of all voice-overs. On the other hand, there must be complete information through audio for the visually impaired.
Businesses must allow flexible work schedules or telecommuting for employees with disabilities. This accommodation may be necessary so that an employee can receive medical treatment or attend to personal care needs.
The Cost of Non-Compliance
Small businesses that fail to comply with the ADA can be sued by the federal government or by private individuals. The penalties for non-compliance can include costly fines and damages. In addition, businesses that are sued for ADA violations often have to pay the attorney’s fees of the people who bring the suit.
Another heavy impact of non-compliance on a small business is on its reputation. Once the reputation of a business is ruined by being discriminatory, it may face a backlash from consumers. Most consumers are now socially aware and expect businesses to be socially responsible. For a small business, such a withdrawal of support from consumers can be difficult to recover from and can lead to closure.
How Compliance with the ADA Benefits Small Businesses
By complying with the ADA, small businesses can avoid suits and fines, reducing their liability risk. Inclusivity compliance also benefits small businesses in other ways. For example, it helps to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace. This can lead to better morale among employees, loyalty, and higher productivity. It will also attract more talent to the company. People with disabilities are often highly-skilled and qualified workers who can bring valuable skills and perspectives to your business.
Moreover, compliance with the ADA can help small businesses gain a more positive corporate image. This will help attract and retain more customers.
Data from 2018 shows that working people with disabilities had a total disposable income of $490 billion after taxes. When spending for necessities like housing and food is removed, they are left with a discretionary income of $21 billion. People with disabilities are more likely to support businesses that are inclusive and accessible. In addition to people with disabilities, people who support inclusivity will also be more likely to do business with your company.
With a good reputation for inclusivity, other businesses will also find it beneficial to partner with your company on mutually profitable projects. This will increase your possible sources of revenue.
Making Your Small Business Accessible is Profitable
In short, compliance with the ADA is good for small businesses. It helps reduce liability risk, creates a more diverse and inclusive workplace, attracts talent, and gains the support of people with disabilities and those who care about inclusivity. Overall, it will increase your company’s profitability.