On November 7, 2012, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota issued a press release announcing that it would review approximately 12 restaurants to determine whether they are in compliance with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for places of public accommodation.  The review will focus on restaurants that are either on or adjacent to Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis, but other restaurants in Minnesota may be added to the review as well.

To conduct the review, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will send surveys to each of the selected restaurants, which must be completed within 30 days.  The restaurants will also likely undergo on-site inspections by representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.  If violations of the ADA are discovered, the press release states that the U.S. Attorney’s Office intends to work with the restaurants to secure voluntary compliance.

The Star Tribune reports that some of the questions that the restaurants will be required to answer for the survey include the following:

  • Is there a telephone device for the deaf available at the host station so a restaurant can take reservations from people who are deaf or have a speech impairment?
  • Is the route through the main entrance and into the restaurant accessible to persons with disabilities?
  • If the restaurant has a bar or counter, is any portion of it lowered so as to be accessible to someone in a wheelchair?
  • Does the restaurant have written policies on how it will handle people with hearing disabilities or use a wheelchair? Does it have a written policy specific to persons with disabilities who use service animals?

Takeaways:  Under the ADA, employers need to ensure not only that their workplaces are accessible to disabled employees, but also that any public accommodations they offer (e.g., restaurants, retail stores, educational institutions, etc…) are also accessible to disabled individuals.  Some helpful resources regarding the ADA’s requirements for accessibility include:  (i) the ADA Guide for Small Businesses; (ii) the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design; and (iii) Guidance on the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design.