The ADA, Service Animals, and ADA Signage
The U.S. Department of Justice regularly provides a status report of ADA litigation activities including lawsuits, settlement agreements, and mediation with entities that have violated some aspect of the Americans with Disabilities Act, including ADA Signage.
In reviewing these status reports, available on www.ada.gov, we see a common issue that arises as a result of businesses denying access to individuals with service animals, often citing a “no pets” policy. Although a “no pets” policy is not illegal, under the ADA it is illegal to prevent service animals from being used within businesses that serve the public. A recent high-profile case involving Blockbuster, Inc. began with a disabled individual who was denied access on multiple occasions at different Blockbuster stores when she attempted to shop while accompanied by a service animal, even after contacting Blockbuster, Inc., and receiving assurances that she would be allowed to shop at Blockbuster stores with her service animal. The eventual agreement with the DOJ required Blockbuster to adopt and implement a comprehensive service animal policy, provide training to employees at more than 3,000 retail stores throughout the United States about the policy, post its service animal policy and signs welcoming service animals in each of its stores, and establish a toll-free number and a grievance procedure for resolving ADA complaints from customers.
In addition to civil damages and fines, the overall resolution was somewhat costly to Blockbuster given that it applied to all of their locations, not to mention the required signage at all locations conveying their new service animal policy. Many of these types of resolutions include ADA signage as a way of effectively communicating accessibility guidelines and avoiding this type of problem in the future.