RESTAURANT OPERATIONS AND THE ADA
Managers and employees should become familiar with the operations side of the restaurant accessibility requirements to ensure all customers have full access to all goods and services. Without attention to some easily correctable items, restaurants become more vulnerable to legal action for compliance with ADA Title III. The following article includes some of the often-missed opportunities for additional compliance that may help you avert a restaurant ADA lawsuit.
Commonly Overlooked Items
There are a number of items that are often overlooked from an operational standpoint that can create barriers for people with disabilities but are easily resolved.
Wheelchair Maneuvering Space
To begin with, managers and employees should ensure sufficient maneuvering space for a patron using a wheelchair. This path of travel includes the entry area to the ordering counter (if provided) and/or to the accessible table in the dining area.
Accessible Seating Near Aisles
Accessible seating should be located to ensure there is no conflict with the aisle space needed for servers. Queue lines in quick service restaurants, if used, must maintain a configuration designed for wheelchair maneuverability.
POS System Accessibility
If the counter at the POS station is too high for a person using a wheelchair to reach, the manager could choose the alternative of having an employee or server assist to complete the transaction at the table.
In the restroom, the wastebasket next to the exit door can impede wheelchair maneuverability space so that the customer is unable to independently operate the door. Based on that, vestibules and restroom doorways should be clear of any objects. Often managers may choose to use the area under the sinks for storage. This only becomes a barrier when storage is placed under the designated accessible lavatory in the restroom.
Grab Bar Fittings
Also, on a regular basis, managers should check grab bars in accessible restrooms as well as handrails on ramps or stairs to ensure fittings are secure.
Television Closed Captioning
There are some other items easily overlooked from an operations standpoint that could be readily addressed to ensure accessibility. For example, if the restaurant has a television, always keep the closed captioning activated for those patrons with hearing difficulties.
Obstacles Near Doorways
Don’t store high chairs adjacent to fire exit doors as they can impede the use of the door by a patron using a wheelchair.
Knowledgeable About Service Animals
Another common oversight is a policy that allows service animals in the restaurant. Employees should be well-versed on how to handle this situation.
Accessibility Compliance Responsibilities
Periodic restaurant inspections are conducted by the health department for sanitary practices as well as by the fire department for life safety and code compliance.
Accessibility compliance however, becomes the responsibility of the owner, manager and restaurant employees.
That is why it is so critical to establish policies designed to maintain accessibility compliance, and those policies need to be incorporated into daily operations as well as employee training.
For additional information on our expertise with Restaurant ADA, please contact us at 407.645.5008 or via email at [email protected].