There's work happening in Swarthmore to envision how we can best make downtown welcome and accessible to all people. Critical questions are being asked, such as how can we promote inclusivity, and how do the town's physical spaces support that goal?  One place we can improve is our accessibility for people with disabilities, as several of the public spaces in Town Center remain inaccessible to those with mobility disabilities. On Tuesday, April 13th, with leadership and support from Swarthmore architect and disability advocate Samina Iqbal, STC hosted a forum that focused on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and how it affects places of public accommodation.  

Accessibility Resources

The featured presenter, attorney Rocco Iacullo of Disability Rights PA, provided an overview of the ADA, important federal civil rights legislation that was first passed in 1990 and significantly amended in 2008.  By having this expert present, and providing the resources below, we hope to inspire building renovations to bring equity to our public spaces and work toward making Swarthmore more inclusive for all.  

Main Discussion Points of the Forum included:

  1. Explain what places of public accommodation are.
  2. Highlight the ongoing obligation that public accommodations have to remove barriers that are readily achievable. 
  3. Define what readily achievable means – metrics for how easily accomplishable and cost of modifications are determined (e.g. providing access to enter, providing access to goods and services, providing access to public bathrooms, removing barriers to other public amenities).
  4. Clarify that buildings aren't "grandfathered in", and that as opposed to when buildings undergo renovations, in which case those changes would undergo a permitting process where the local building inspector has authority, the ADA's requirements fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice, and a civil rights complaint can be filed if someone experiences discrimination.


Why Renovate?

Federal tax credits are available for businesses with less than $1 million in revenue, 50% of modification for expenditure of up to $10,250 for a maximum $5000 credit.  There are also tax deductions for barrier removal.


How to Get Started

Review the ADA 2010 Small Business Primer.  This serves as an orientation document and great place to start.

Scan the ADA Readily Achievable Checklist. This is a great resource for existing buildings, and it narrows down the design considerations that need to be made in a succinct way.

Check the IRS Tax Credit and Deduction page for benefits to businesses complying with the ADA.

For more in depth information, see the 2010 Full ADA Standards.  This is the comprehensive list of rules. 

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