The Americans with Disabilities Act was designed to help make business more accessible for those with disabilities. The act passed in 1992 and has been regularly updated since. It includes a series of rules about how ramps, doors, signs, and other elements of your business need to be designed and implemented. However, it is challenging for your average small business to understand all the regulations they need to follow to avoid fines and other penalties. In this guide, we’ll tell you what you need to know about ADA compliance for small businesses.

Does Your Business Need to be ADA Compliant?

Before you start wading into any specific rules, it’s best to start out by discovering if your business needs to be ADA compliant. Many small businesses are not large enough or in business long enough to be included in the first section of the ADA. Specifically, your business only needs to worry about the employer regulations of the ADA if it:

  • Employs 15 or more people
  • Is in business for 20 or more weeks in a calendar year
  • Is engaged in an industry affecting commerce

Of course, this only relates to private businesses, which are covered under Title I of the ADA. Public organizations are covered under Title II of the act, and they have different rules.

There is also a third section of the ADA called Title III. This section is about how a business treats the public and not about how it treats its employees. All businesses, with some very rare exceptions, need to follow the rules in Title III. This section has rules for twelve different kinds of public accommodations/businesses, including:

  • Health care facilities
  • Schools and museums
  • Restaurants and bars
  • Hotels and theatres
  • Other stores and shops

If you are a commercial facility, such as a factory, office building, or warehouse, you only need to follow the ADA’s requirements when engaging in new construction or altering your property. If applicable, you may also have to abide by the Title I rules.

Website Accessibility

In recent years, the ADA has turned its attention to online accessibility instead of just physical accessibility in-person at your business. You have an obligation to ensure that people with disabilities can access it, regardless of the size of your business or for how long you’re in operation. Although, these are flexible rules that may not even apply to your website if you don’t have the feature it pertains to.

Here are some guidelines for website accessibility:

  • Video and images need text: Not everyone can see videos and images but can use software to read text online. So, all content should have a text transcript. Images should have alt text, with exceptions. Live video presentations should have closed captioning too.
  • Focus on order and structure: Proper website structure will help with your SEO efforts and conform to ADA guidelines. The idea is simply to make your website easy to navigate. Allow text to be resized, don’t rely on color alone (or people who are colorblind may have issues with your website).

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Ramps and Doors

Wheelchair ramps and automatic doors are the first things most people think of when they think of ADA compliance. Indeed, helping get customers in your door, even when they have mobility challenges, is an especially important aspect of accessibility. Interior and exterior doors need to be ADA compliant, and people need to be able to use ramps to get to them.

To start, here are some major ADA rules for your doors:

  • Door hardware must be in a shape that is easy to grasp. This one is a little ambiguous, but we have experience and can tell you if your handle meets the rules.
  • Door hardware must operate with 5 pounds of force. If your door takes more force to operate, you may need to replace it.
  • Doors must be openable with one hand, without tight twisting, pinching, or grasping.
  • You may need safety mats and guiderails for automatic doors, and they may also need standby power if they do not allow for enough sideways clearance.
  • Manual doors must have bottom rails that are no more than 10 inches high. The hardware on these doors may no protrude out more than 10 inches.

There are also several ADA rules for ramps, including:

  • Ramps may not have a slope greater than 1:20. That means that your every 20 inches, it runs horizontally, the ramp can rise a maximum of one inch.
  • The top and bottom landings of the ramp must be as wide as the ramp itself. These landings should be level.
  • Many ramps need to have handrails on both sides, depending on slope and length. The handrail must be extended from the wall by a 1.5 inch so that a hand can fit.

There are many more rules for doors and ramps under the ADA. Trust an expert in the ADA or the specific building element to help you ensure that you are meeting your obligations.


Signs are a third major area where you’ll want to ensure you are ADA compliant. ADA signs are all about making sure that those with disabilities can still get around your property and understand your signs. Certain signs on your property need to have Braille so that those with sight disabilities can read them. Plus, people who read Braille need the sign to be within a certain height so that they can find it with their hands. Also, ADA signs need to be high contrast, so that those with less severe sight disabilities, such as colorblindness, can still read them.

Not every sign in your property needs to be ADA compliant. The three major types that do need to follow these guidelines are:

  • Permanent signs: Any sign that labels a room’s permanent function needs to be ADA compliant. A permanent function is one that a room has for more than seven days.
  • Safety signs: Signs that convey safety information, such as where a fire exit is, must be ADA compliant.
  • Accessibility signs: Signs that indicate accessibility features, such as elevators and bathrooms, must be ADA compliant.

Are you still not sure what you need to change to be ADA compliant? The team at CLAD can take care of your ADA door needs. Reach out to us for expert advice and fast installation.