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Accessibility is in the Details

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Cory Anttila, Kamus + Keller Architectural Studio Director and CASp candidate, has observed many tenant improvement and building remodel projects in which existing conditions were not accessibility compliant.  Unfortunately, accessibility improvements can become financially devastating to all parties.

When it comes time to negotiate a lease, details are critical.  Items such as lease rates and terms, lighting, ceilings, and utilities (just to name a few) are always addressed.  However, general terminology regarding disabled accessibility lacks the necessary detail to correct existing non-compliant features.  This is a problem.  Not observing these details can be disastrous to both the building owner, landlord and tenant, resulting in add-services during construction, and most certainly project delays.

How do accessibility laws and regulations affect building owners, tenant and the lease?

Non-conformance to federal and state laws/regulations are a violation of one’s civil rights and can result in severe financial consequences.  Federal laws are enforced through the Department of Justice and subject the violator to lawsuits and penalties.  The State of California, however, enforces disabled access conformance through the California Building Code, and is reviewed carefully prior to issuance of building permits.

My building was built prior to the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.  Shouldn’t I be grandfathered in?

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If your building was constructed prior to the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, it is still subject to removal of barriers and may require additional accessibility improvements.  The Federal Government has observed accessibility laws and regulations for over 40 years, pre-dating the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.  The State of California has observed disability accessibility within their state laws and codes for over 45 years for publicly funded facilities, and 43 years for privately funded facilities.

How do I reduce my risk?

Hiring a Certified Access Specialist (CASp) consultant is the first step.

In January 2009, the State of California signed Senate Bill 1608 into law.  As a result, the Certified Access Specialist Program was developed to address and prevent accessibility violations.  While federal adherence to ADA requirements is required, it is essential to understand that in most cases the California equal access laws exceed the federal accessibility requirements.  A CASp certified consultant will review existing building conditions and consult with the owner and tenants regarding their accessibility violations and encourage them to voluntarily take proactive steps to comply with federal and state laws.

Senate Bill 1608 does not affect a person’s ability to collect damages or reduce a businesses’ liability for a violation.  A CASp certification will allow the building owner and tenant to address the violation(s), and upon repair significantly reduce the financial claim for damages.  Engaging a CASp consultant is highly encouraged to not only identify accessibility violations but to also reduce financial penalties and claims that arise out of such issues.



Have further questions about accessibility issues? Let us know! Reach out to Cory at 805.583.5935, or via email at