Are Restaurants Required to Be Handicap Accessible?

October 24, 2016 | 8:00 am | By Pants Up Easy

If you or someone you love has a spinal cord injury you know how difficult it can be to get around in public. You have to give yourself a little more time to get where you’re going. In addition, it is important to think about the accessibility at the places you plan on visiting. Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), accessibility in public is much less of an issue than it was in the past. However, there are limitations to the ADA that are important for you to understand. In a perfect world, every place you want or need to go to would be easily accessible and accommodating. Unfortunately, that is not the case-yet. So, be sure and confirm the handicap accessibility of new places you plan on visiting. For example, if a friend invites you to a new restaurant for lunch, can you be sure that it is handicap accessible? Are all restaurants required to be handicap accessible? The short answer to this question is- it depends.

Under the ADA, restaurants are considered a type of public accommodation. According to the ADA, there are specific requirements (for accessibility) related to architectural standards for new and altered buildings. But what does that mean?! The ADA states that public accommodations (in this case restaurants) must remove barriers in existing buildings where it is easy to do so without much difficulty or expense, given the public accommodation’s resources. Again, what does that mean?! In general terms you can expect that new and recently renovated buildings will be handicap accessible. Older buildings may or may not be accessible so for those situations it is best to call ahead and check with the facility.

The federal government is not the only level of government that addresses handicap accessibility. States and local jurisdictions can also have laws and building codes related to accessibility. You may live in an area where the building codes related to accessibility are more stringent and specific than those lined out by the ADA. If that is the case, you may be able to go anywhere within your jurisdiction with the confidence that it will be accessible. A little research into the state and local regulations can help you as you plan your time out around town. This knowledge can also help you know your rights and recognize any situation where a facility is violating the local, state, or federal regulations.

There are more places every day that are making their facilities handicap accessible thanks to the ADA, state, and local regulations. This is an encouraging fact if you need the assistance of a wheelchair to get around. If you are ever unsure or nervous about visiting a new place, a simple phone call can answer your questions about accessibility and calm your fears about going somewhere that is not accessible.

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