A Retailer’s Guide to Compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been around for nearly 30 years. Although there is virtually no area of American business that has remained untouched by the landmark legislation, retailers especially have to be careful about how they comply with it. Serving the public means accommodating everyone — regardless of their physical limitations.

Even though the majority of store owners intend to comply with the law completely, there are some areas in which they may not be aware they are not in compliance. This can be extremely costly. Retailers can be hit with unexpected lawsuits that can cost them thousands of dollars in legal fees and bad publicity.

Complying with ADA requires a lot of due diligence, but that effort can bring many benefits, as well. For example, displays that are easy to read for those with vision impairments tend to be more eye-catching to everyone. This can lead to greater visibility for a brand and increased business.

If you have questions about how ADA compliance can result in higher profits for your store, read on! Below, numerous important facts and tips you can follow to help ensure you won’t be caught by surprise.


When done, here is content other readers find helpful:
  • Approximately 19 percent of Americans — about 50 million people — have some form of disability.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law in 1990 and applies to virtually all types of businesses.
  • Title III of the ADA specifies that businesses cannot discriminate against customers on the basis of a disability.
  • The number of lawsuits related to ADA Title III compliance has increased steadily over the few years, with more than 7,600 filed in 2017 and more than 11,000 were filed in 2021.
  • California, New York, and Florida lead the nation in the number of ADA Title III-related lawsuits.
  • According to Statista businesses in the US have been spending over $20 billion on litigation each year since 2018
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Parking Spaces

Not only should there be a certain number of spaces designated for people with disabilities, but they also must meet the specific dimensions detailed by the ADA Accessibility Guidelines. Accessible spaces must be at least 8 feet wide and include a 5-foot-wide access aisle alongside each one.


Automatic or push-button doors are common today, but there must also be a minimum of 32 inches of clean space between the face of the door and the stop on the other side when open to provide access for those using wheelchairs or crutches. 


At least one checkout counter in a store must be no higher than 38 inches off the floor to allow easier access for those using wheelchairs.


Failing to provide wide enough walkways between shelving units can put a retailer in danger of noncompliance with the ADA. A minimum width of 36 inches is required. If the aisle is more than 200 feet long, a passing space of at least 60 inches by 60 inches must be provided.

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Although many retail stores feature store maps or directories, some forget to use Braille for the visually impaired. 


Signs that feature elaborate typefaces or color schemes without enough contrast may be too difficult for those with limited vision to read.


At least one sink in each restroom has to be no more than 34 inches from the floor, and there must be at least 48 inches of clear floor space underneath it. Accessible toilets should be no greater than 19 inches off the floor and grab bars must be provided alongside them.

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Redesign Your Website

Not only will this help ensure that more people who use assistive devices can navigate your site, but it also can make it easier for everyone to use.

Arrange Items by Weight

When you stock the heavier items on the lower shelves and lighter ones on higher shelves, you improve access for those with limited mobility. It also makes shopping more convenient for all.

Larger Dressing Rooms

Accommodating people who use wheelchairs also means spaces that are more comfortable for everyone.

Better Signs

Designing signage with easy-to-read type and contrasting colors not only helps people with limited vision, but it also makes them more eye-catching and attractive.

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Inspect Your Sites

Remember the old saying, “hope is not a management strategy”. So, don’t just hope that your sites and facilities are compliant with accessibility laws and company guidelines, inspect them regularly and assign corrective actions when issues are found.


About the author:
Robin Brower is Senior Vice President of Business Development at OPTO, where she leads the design and business development teams. Brower built the design department from scratch in 1983 and has been the organization’s lead designer for the past 35 years.

Article sources:
https://www.ada.gov/reg3a.html#Anchor-18203 | https://www.essentialaccessibility.com/blog/ada-retail/ | https://nrf.com/blog/ada-website-lawsuits-growing-problem-retailers https://www.crowdcontrolwarehouse.com/blogs/blog/ada-requirements-for-retail-stores-setting-your-business-up-for-success

7 thoughts on “A Retailer’s Guide to Compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act

  1. Is it 36 inches from display shelf to display shelf? What about all the extra garbage hanging in front of shelves?

  2. Would it be discrimination against the handicap when scooters at a large grocery chain are not properly maintained and when they end up in the parking lot losing charge so that there aren’t any available for those of us who need one to do our shopping

  3. Does the BOH (back of house) rooms like manager office, break room, etc. needs to be ADA complaint?

  4. What about the disabled people who can’t seem to get a charged motor scooter at Wal-Mart that’s if they get one at all!!

  5. The charged scooter at WalMart is a chronic issue, they have the equipment, but have difficulty charging them…

  6. They don’t have their staff monitor the parking lot to make sure they are turned off by the person who left them there and so more are available. They also don’t keep them maintained as well as other stores. Publix does it right. They follow you out of the store and bring them back to the charging area.

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