The third part of this three-part article looks at the true costs of compliance.

A distributor representative well versed in the ADA can help facility managers avoid the cost of noncompliance and thus become more valuable to their clients. Being well versed in the ADA is not only valuable when installing dispensers, but also when dispensers need to be moved or replaced, according to Swinscoe.

“The education … really needs to be ongoing,” he says. “Having that rudimentary knowledge base of the ADA is necessary to protect who they work with.”

Swinscoe says he believes that the majority of professionals that deal with restroom maintenance have not armed themselves with a basic knowledge the ADA. He also says that, of the hundreds of businesses his firm has worked with, he has yet to find one that is fully ADA compliant. 

“There are still a lot of people who have not picked it up,” he says.

One of the fundamental elements that distributors need to realize about the ADA is that it is not a building code law but a civil rights law, experts say.

“If you are treating it like a civil rights law when you are thinking about what needs to go into a restroom, you are basically saying that everyone has got an equal opportunity,” says Swinscoe. “If I am not providing dispensers within a compliant reach range with the ADA, then I am effectively discriminating against that person who is trying to use that restroom.”

And with civil rights issues come legal ramifications. According to the ADA website, the law allows individuals to file lawsuits in federal court against a business for ADA violations. Although the law does not permit the complainant to sue for monetary damages, it does allow for the court to require businesses to pay attorney fees for the complainant if they win. In addition, some state anti-discrimination laws allow for compensatory damages to be awarded, according to the government publications.
 
Individuals can also file complaints with the U.S. Department of Justice, which can then file “general public importance” or “pattern or practice” suits in federal court against a business accused of ADA violations. If problems are not fixed, a business could be forced to pay monetary damages for compensatory relief and civil penalties that can be $55,000 for the first violation and $110,000 for future violations.

“It’s not a really big cost to relocate a paper towel dispenser,” says Swinscoe. “However, if you are in a lot of establishments and you are paying $200 a pop depending on the type of materials you are mounting these things on, it can add up.” 

Jan/san sales representatives should arm themselves with the ADA standards and a tape measurer. They should routinely go into restrooms to measure, assess a client’s needs and scope out potential violations that are lurking, says Walker. 

“You don’t want to be the sales guy that goes in, especially into an older building, and reinstalls dispensers or adds another one and has it be the thing that knocks it out of compliance,” he says. “The best thing to do is to be aware, so you are not the one making a mistake.” 

Brendan O’Brien is a freelance writer based in Greenfield, Wisconsin.