Minnesota Cities Magazine
More from Nov-Dec 2019 issue

Letter of the Law: ADA Considerations for Municipal Liquor Stores

By Aisia Davis

Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), cities must make sure all their programs and services are accessible to people with disabilities. That includes services offered by municipal liquor stores.

Recently, there has been an increase in ADA-related complaints concerning public property. Cities in Minnesota have been sued over accessibility issues—particularly those in municipal liquor store parking lots. The complaints typically allege that parking lots are not compliant with the latest accessibility standards, and that individuals are not able to access the services offered by the liquor store.

Although Minnesota cities have made great strides in this area and continue to do so, cities should evaluate compliance issues and work to address them by following the recommendations outlined here.

Conduct a full compliance assessment

Identify barriers to programs and services and develop an achievable barrier removal plan by prioritizing projects.

As a starting point, consider first assessing barriers in parking that may affect access to the liquor store. For example, and as discussed in more detail later, assess the number, width, slope, and location of accessible parking spaces and whether the spaces meet accessibility standards.

Inside the store, consider evaluating aisle widths, service counter heights, and restroom accessibility.

Evaluate parking lot accessibility

Litigation of parking lot claims often assert that alleged ADA compliance issues prevent a disabled individual from accessing programs or services. One of the most common alleged violations is either a lack of access aisle or too narrow of an access aisle.

According to the Disability Parking Quick Reference Design Guide by the Minnesota Council on Disability, accessible parking spaces must:

  • Be at least 8 feet wide.
  • Be located on the shortest possible accessible route to the building entrance.
  • Have a permanently mounted sign centered at the head of the space. The sign shall be at least 12 inches by 18 inches, display the international symbol of access in white on blue, and indicate that a vehicle ID is required and that violators are subject to a fine of up to $200.
  • Have an adjacent 8-foot-wide access aisle (preferably on the passenger side if there is only one accessible space). Van parking spaces that are angled must have access aisles located on the passenger side of the parking space. In addition:
  • There must be a permanently mounted “No Parking” sign centered at the head of the access aisle space, unless that sign would obstruct a curb ramp or pedestrian route. If that is the case, “No Parking” shall be painted on the access aisle surface. (The sign may also be posted on a building at the head end of the access aisle as long as it’s not more than 8 feet away.)
  • The slope of each accessible parking space and access aisle must not exceed a ratio of 1-to-48. The slope of curb ramps must not exceed a ratio of 1-to-12.

Evaluate aisle widths and service counter height

You should ensure there is an accessible route through the store for a person using a wheelchair, electric scooter, or walker. You’ll also want to verify that the height of the service counter is accessible. Accessibility standards generally provide:

  • Aisles should be 36 inches wide.
  • The height of the service counter should not exceed 38 inches. Make sure you have staff available to assist customers with requested accommodations, such as reaching items on shelves or carrying items to their car.

Evaluate restrooms

If restrooms are available to the public, there should be an accessible route to the store’s restroom, which should be marked with proper signage. There are several components to assessing restroom accessibility. One recommendation is that the toilet room must have adequate space to allow a 5-foot diameter turning circle, so a wheelchair can turn 180 degrees.

For comprehensive information on restroom accessibility, see the Minnesota Council on Disability’s Accessible Toilet Rooms Quick Reference Guide, available at http://bit.ly/ADArestroom.

Consider restricting the restroom to employees only until any necessary updates can be made. But keep in mind that employment-related portions of the ADA also require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, which may include accessible restrooms.

Learn more about ADA accessibility standards at http://bit.ly/learnADA.

Aisia Davis is a research attorney with the League of Minnesota Cities. Contact: adavis@lmc.org or (651) 281-1271.

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