DOJ settlement requires 19 DC building owners to fix barriers that block disabled visitors from accessing tenants

by Brianna Crandall — June 14, 2021 — The U.S. Department of Justice just announced that it reached a single agreement with 19 building owners who rent space in their buildings to stores and restaurants. The agreement requires the owners to fix their buildings so that people with mobility disabilities, like wheelchair users, can get in the door to shop or eat. According to DOJ, physical barriers, like steps at an entrance, can keep people with disabilities out and cause discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The Justice Department inspected three buildings on 14th Street N.W., in Washington, DC, to ADA logosee if people with disabilities could enter the businesses renting space there. Two of the buildings had steps at the entrances, and one did not have enough space at the entrance for wheelchair users to open the door and go in on their own.

The building owners agreed to hire an architect to check their 19 buildings in Washington, DC; Maryland and Virginia to make sure the buildings can be used by people with disabilities. The owners agreed to fix any problems by the end of next year. Possible fixes are adding a ramp where there are steps or putting in an automatic door opener when there is not enough space for wheelchair users. Fixing the buildings is an important step toward providing people with mobility disabilities an equal opportunity to shop and dine at the stores and restaurants inside, says DOJ.

The ADA requires stores and restaurants located in new buildings to make sure the spaces their customers use in those buildings are useable by people with disabilities, such as those who use wheelchairs. If a business is located in an older building, the business must make sure barriers to people with disabilities are removed when it is easy to do. And if a business makes changes to a building, those changed areas must be made useable as much as possible. These rules also apply to the companies that own the buildings that they rent to businesses like stores and restaurants.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division remarked:

Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 to stop discrimination against people with disabilities caused by the way a building is designed, built, or changed. Today’s agreement calls attention to the obligations of building owners to ensure that the space they rent to a store or restaurant follows the rules of the ADA. We welcome the owners’ cooperation with us in today’s agreement to make their buildings more usable for people with disabilities.

This matter was handled by the Disability Rights Section of DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. The Justice Department plays a central role in advancing the nation’s goal of equal opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities.

For more details about the ADA compliance issues found at the first three buildings, the specific agreements/requirements, and the names of the 19 building owners, all managed by companies that are managed by J.C. Reger Interests Inc., doing business as JCR Companies, see the Settlement Agreement.

For more information on the Americans with Disabilities Act, visit the ADA website.