Roanoke, VA – An organization calling itself Advocates for Americans with Disabilities, LLC is sending letters to dozens of Roanoke businesses, demanding payment for non-compliance of the Americans with Disabilities Act. According to the United States Access Board, a Federal agency that promotes equality through accessible design through the ADA, this organization has no legal authority to enforce federal law and levy fines for non-compliance of the ADA.
The Williamson Road Area Business Association shared the misleading letters with BBB after being approached by the organization. The letter begins by informing the business that they are not in compliance with state and federal laws of the ADA. It goes on to claim that the penalties assessed by Advocates for Americans with Disabilities, LLC are due immediately.
You are responsible for rectifying (i.e. add/repair/fix) each infraction of these regulations and also paying for the penalties thereof. It is urgent that you contact one of our representatives within 15 days.
The letter lists a local and regional representative. However, the terms local and regional are deceiving as this organization was founded in Roanoke, VA in May of 2017 and gives the incorrect impression of a larger organization active outside of the area. The address listed for the organization is a P.O. Box inside a private mailbox facility, and is not a physical address.
The letter includes a list of violations adapted from the New England ADA Center checklist, but a BBB investigation discovered that Advocates for Americans with Disabilities, LLC edited this checklist, adding fines not included in the original document. The letter claims that $20,500 in penalties are due immediately, and threatens to increase these fines by 25% for every 30 days of non-compliance. If the violations are not settled within 90 days, the organization threatens to turn the case over to their legal department.
The letter carbon copies attorney Charles R. Allen Jr. BBB reached out to Mr. Allen who told us he does not represent the organization and had recently demanded they stop using his name in their correspondence. He has no connection with the ADA letters and never gave them permission to use his name.
Under their explanation of the legal obligations of business/property owners, the letter incorrectly cites their source as being Title II of the ADA, which only applies to state and local government entities. Title III applies to businesses that are generally open to the public.
Businesses who are unsure about their current ADA compliance status may contact the Technical Assistance Line of the United States Access Board at 800-872-2253. At the first prompt press 3, and then press 1 at the second prompt. This ADA information line provides information and materials to the public about the requirements of the ADA.
The Department of Justice is the only authority with the ability to levy fines for ADA non-compliance. If a business was being investigated for ADA accessibility violations, a representative from the Department of Justice would physically visit the business location to assess any violations and work with the company towards a readily achievable solution.
Section 36.304 “Removal of barriers” of the Americans with Disabilities Act Title III Regulations states:
A public accommodation shall remove architectural barriers in existing facilities, including communication barriers that are structural in nature, where such removal is readily achievable, i.e., easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense.
Here are some tips for businesses that are approached by individuals or organizations involving alleged ADA accessibility violations:
Remember that the Department of Justice is the only legal authority that can levy fines for ADA violations.
Contact the U.S. Access Board Technical Information Line to determine what your obligations and rights are in regards to ADA. (800-872-2253. At the first prompt press 3, and then press 1 at the second prompt.)
Be wary of threats and deadlines. These types of letters can be overwhelming for many business owners who are not familiar with the ADA. Take the time to read over everything, contact your legal counsel, and the U.S. Access Board before contacting the other party back.
Contact your local authorities if you feel you are the target of extortion.
For more information, please visit www.bbb.org or contact the BBB Serving Western VA at (540) 342-3455 or (800) 533-5501.
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