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Small business owners also see the disabled as customers and

clients, and in order to compete for their purchasing power, many

voluntarily make adjustments in their facilities to accommodate the

disabled.

While a good deal more needs to be done to accommodate the

disabled, small business owners have done a great deal voluntarily to provide access to the disabled. And more will be done on a voluntary basis over the coming years. Therefore, the approach taken by the

ADA bill to mandate significant and often expensive equipment,

services, and structural changes in nearly every business in America is simply wrong headed. Instead of providing incentives, education, and opportunities to encourage greater access, the ADA bill takes a negative approach of imposing vague requirements followed by significant penalties if businesses fail to comply.

Many in the disability community view the ADA bill as a declaration

of their independence, just as other minority groups have viewed major civil rights bills in the past. But there exists a fundamental difference between statutes for other groups and the ADA bill - namely, as currently written, access for the disabled comes at the expense of others. Under past civil rights laws, businesses were required to "open their doors to the various minority groups. The ADA would do the same for the disabled. However, in addition to opening the doors, businesses will be required to spend their own money to make alterations in those doorways and make other accommodations. These accommodations

may include structural modifications along with the installation of

ramps, accessible restrooms and dressing rooms, lower drinking fountains, and the use of auxiliary alds and services. These alterations and purchases of equipment and services are an expense that business owners alone are expected to pay for.

It is important to keep in mind that U.S. businesses are currently facing a full array of social legislation that they, not the public in general, are going to be expected to fund. Added to the potential burdens of upcoming child care, parental leave, and other mandated

benefit legislation, business owners are now going to be forced to foot

the bill for an unspecified number of modifications to their businesses

whether or not disabled people ever choose to seek a job or to

patronize a particular business.

Small business owners are particularly concerned with the ADA bill

for two primary reasons -- Clarity and cost. The intent of the bill is clear.

However, the ambiguous language in the bill and the unknown price

tag conjure up images of a parade of attorneys and lawsuits to the

average small business owner.

Proponents of the bill claim that the language is clear and unambiguous, particularly as a result of changes made during the Senate markup and later during Senate floor debate. Without question, progress has been made. The original version of the bill was

entirely unworkable and unacceptable to anyone with an understanding of how businesses operate on a day-to-day basis.

However, even the Senate-passed version needs further

refinement. NFIB and its members urge that the House take up the Senate-passed version of the ADA bill and add substantive, creative

modifications to enact a bill that is balanced and fair to all attected

people, both the disabled and the business community.

Scope of Coverage Under ADA and Associated Costs

For the first time ever, private businesses that receive no federal funds will be required to make alterations to their facilities to provide

access to the disabled. In the past, only federal contractors and

programs receiving federal grants were required to comply (under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973). The belief was that those who chose to accept federal money should, in turn, provide access to the disabled as a federally-mandated requirement -- in effect a quid pro quo for

receiving Federal funds.

This is not the case with the ADA bill. Private businesses will be

expected to provide accommodation without the benefit of receiving federal funds to offset those additional costs. Proponents argue that

those businesses and programs already covered say that the cost of

accommodating the disabled is 'no big deal". They argue that accommodations costing $25, $50, or $100 are not overly burdensome. Unfortunately, this ignores the fact that the accumulated effect of a number of smaller costs can seriously threaten the economic health of

a small business.

Contrary to what proponents would like us all to believe, not all the

costs are small. The following is a list of prices for

various accommodations based upon several studies and reputable nows articles published during 1988:

.

$1,000 to $10,000 for a concrete ramp (cost depending on number

of steps to be ramped)

$3,000 to widen and install a new exterior door

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$300 to $600 to widen and install a new interior door

$200 to lower an existing water fountain

$300 to $3,000 to modify an existing public restroom
$23/hour to hire a certified sign language interpreter
$ 150 to $700 to purchase a Telecommunications Device for the

Deaf

$2.50/page to translate written text into Braille form

$5,000 to purchase a computer with speech synthesizer and appropriate software for the blind

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it indicates that not all

accommodations can be described as "no big deal", particularly to a small, marginal business.

Small businesses are not necessarily well off and able to afford

many extra expenses. According to a recent NFIB survey. 42.7 percent of small businesses averaged gross receipts of less than $350,000 last

year. Another 18.8 percent averaged less than $750,000. More than

half of small business owners (56.6%) took out of their businesses less

than $30,000 last year.

In light of these statistics, it should be no surprise that small

businesses fear the costs associated with the ADA bill. Several

modifications of the language can alleviate a substantial portion of

their concem.

Understanding of Disabilities

While the ADA bill has been reformulated to reflect certain 'definitions' within the Rehabilitation Act, little understanding exists regarding the specific requirements for businesses. General guidelines are provided, and case law provides additional guidance with respect to individual cases, but these are entirely inadequate in providing specific parameters for business compliance.

For example, the regulations for the Rehabilitation Act do not list what types of disabilities are covered. The result of this lack of clarity is

reflected in the confused case law associated with the Act where

courts have been forced to determine which conditions, diseases, and

behavioral patterns are 'disabilities' protected by the Act on a case-by-case basis. One case was brought in which a woman claimed a disability because she was dependent upon her dog. While the woman did not prevail, her case is illustrative of the types of "disabilities" individuals may attempt to bring under the ADA bill.

It is simply ridiculous to expect individual business owners to know which disabilities are covered and therefore must be accommodated.

And business owners will never know if they have guessed right or

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