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ADA Lawsuits Threaten to Handicap Local Small Business

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The past two years have seen a spike in American Disabilities Act lawsuits against small business owners in the City, according to today's Chronicle report. While accessibility for all is a wonderful thing, it seems many of the complaints that local businesses receive prior to finding themselves served with papers show a disconnect between those asking for compliance and the actual language of the code. Take the 250 square-foot Gallery of Jewels on 24th Street in Noe Valley for example, where owner Bill Hoover has received complaints about a 4-inch granite step at the entrance. Four inches is a substantial enough roadblock, of course but as Hoover points out renovations to bring his shop up to code wouldn't leave any square footage for inventory.

Federal law "only imposes access changes that are 'readily achievable,' generally meaning that they are structurally possible or would not put a shopkeeper out of business." The city's solution then, is education. The small-business office hopes to work with the supervisors to spread more information on how to comply with both state and federal access laws, as well as offering tax breaks and low-interest loans for business to make structural changes. Although, in the case of Gallery of Jewels, a nice little wooden ramp might do the trick.

· Small businesses deal with disabled-access suits [SFGate]