California small businesses will soon have access to a new loan program to retrofit their buildings to come into compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act architectural standards, under a new measure signed October 11 Governor Jerry Brown.
Under the California Americans with Disabilities Act Small Business Capital Access Loan Program, the program will be funded with $10 million from the state’s general fund, then be self-sustaining through interest payments.
The bill’s sponsor, Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez said the legislation was primarily motivated to fend off a perceived crisis of litigation against “mom and pop stores.”
“More than 40 percent of the nation’s ADA lawsuits are filed in California, often by predatory litigators looking for statutory penalties rather than remedial relief,” Assemblymember Gomez said in a news release. “By helping small businesses meet ADA regulations, we protect them from predatory lawsuits, while expanding accessibility for disabled Californians.”
Disability Rights California came out in support of Assemblymember Gomez’s legislation.
“It is a proactive measure that provides incentives for businesses to comply with the law,” DRC said in a May news release [PDF]. “It promotes equal access for individuals with disabilities by creating a self-sustaining loan program for small businesses to ensure access compliance.
“Incentives such as those found in AB 1230 are a step in the right direction and help to protect the civil rights of individuals with disabilities.”
The legislation passed both the Senate and Assembly unanimously.
The day prior, Gov. Brown vetoed a similar bill that would have accomplished the same goal via tax credits. That bill also would have provided a 120-day grace period for business owners to fix ADA violations, if they were found after inspections by a certified access specialist.
This bill had also passed the Senate unanimously, and the Assembly by a 70-6 vote, though the DRC testified against it [PDF].
Disability Rights California is part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.