An increasingly large percentage of the population qualifies as having one or more disabilities. Many everyday features of our built environments are access barriers for people with certain disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has dramatically improved access since its effective date in 1992, especially in new buildings. California had access construction standards even before the enactment of the ADA. The combination of the ADA and pre-existing California access has resulted in a unique statutory framework that has resulted in an explosion of lawsuits. These lawsuits often target older buildings which were built before the code section forming the basis of the lawsuit. Kim Blackseth, California’s foremost expert on disabled access construction standards, explains how and when a Certified Access Specialist (CASp) can help. (forward by W. Adams)
In this increasingly litigious environment, one of the tools to assist businesses, landlords and others from disabled access lawsuits, is the CASp program.
What is a CASp?
A CASp is an acronym for Certified Access Specialist. A CASp has been tested and certified by the State of California to meet the minimum requirements of knowledge of and applicability of complex construction-related accessibility standards.
Why should I hire a CASp?
A CASp will know which standards apply to your property based on the age of your facility and its history of improvements. Only a Certified Access Specialist can provide accessibility evaluation services that can offer you “qualified defendant” status should a construction-related accessibility claim be filed against you. You can retain the services of a CASp at any time; however, a CASp Inspection Report can only offer you “qualified defendant” status if inspection services, delivery of a CASp Inspection Report, occur before a construction-related accessibility claim is filed against you.
Am I required to hire a CASp in order to become compliant?
Nothing in the law is intended to require a property owner or tenant to hire a CASp. A property owner’s or tenant’s election not to hire a CASp shall not be admissible to prove that person’s lack of intent to comply with the ADA or California law.
How do I find a CASp?
The Division of the State Architect provides a list of Certified Access Specialist on its website. Click here for the list: California CASp List.
What is certified when I hire a CASp?
Certification applies only to a CASp, and indicates that the individual has passed an examination and is certified by the State of California to meet the minimum requirements of knowledge of and applicability of complex accessibility. A CASp can issue a determination in a CASp Inspection Report as to whether or not a facility is compliant on the specific day of inspection. A CASp does not and cannot certify that a facility is compliant.
What is a Disability Access Inspection Certificate?
The Disability Access Inspection Certificate (Certificate) is a record of inspection, and not a certificate of compliance. A CASp does not certify that a facility meets compliance with issuance of a Certificate. A Certificate is required to be issued to you with a CASp Inspection Report regardless of the determination stipulated in the Report. The Certificate is numbered and contains the State of California seal. This number is recorded by the CASp in a record book maintained for that purpose and identifies that the certificate is issued in conjunction with a specific CASp Inspection Report. While you are advised to keep confidential the CASp Inspection Report, the Certificate is offered to you as proof that you are a holder of a CASp Inspection Report. You are not required to post the certificate at the facility that was inspected, and you may share it with anyone requesting proof that you have had an inspection. CASp Inspection Reports, however, should remain confidential and should only be disclosed after seeking the advice of an attorney.
I have a CASp Inspection Report and Certificate. What should I do now?
If your CASp Inspection Report has a determination of “meets applicable standards,” the CASp has determined your facility meets applicable construction-related accessibility standards. Keep the Report in your records and maintain the accessible features of your facility. If your CASp Inspection Report has a determination of “inspected by a CASp” you should strive to adhere to your schedule for improvements to come into compliance with applicable construction-related standards. Keep the Report in your records. You do not need to obtain a final inspection of the improvements from a CASp, but to do so may offer you peace of mind that the improvements have been inspected for compliance.