Did you know that California has certified over 800 individuals as “Access Specialists” since 2008?
And did you know that less than 100 of these access specialists — referred to as a “CASp” or a Certified Access Specialist (where the “p” stands for program) perform inspections for private commercial property owners, management firms and their tenants?
With so many “access specialists” licensed and certified to consult on everything ADA, why is it that ADA lawsuits are on the rise … again?
The reality of this industry is that it’s far reaching and serves multiple trades and professionals in many different ways. Some obtain their CASp certification because their employer requires it. For others, it is a mere formality to maintain their professional license, e.g., architects, civil engineers and designers.
Then there are those of us who live and breathe ADA on a daily basis and serve very specific types of clients: Commercial retail, office, light industrial and multi-family housing owners, managers and their tenants looking to reduce their exposure to a drive-by ADA lawsuit and/or trying to make sense of the improvements the building department is requiring they make during a re-model project.
I want to be clear that the roughly 700+ certified individuals that do not perform inspections in the commercial industry for the “specific client” types I mention are still very valuable and needed in their industry.
Some of my good friends are certified access specialists, but they don’t do what I do at all. Not even close.
One CASp friend works full time for a Cal State University as the university’s full-time on-staff access specialist who is involved in every remodel or new construction project on campus.
Another works for a large health care provider and another works for the State performing inspections of jails and prisons.
These friends are all very good at what they do and perform a valuable service for their employer, but none of them would come out to a shopping center and perform a detailed inspection and produce a CASp report with detailed scoping for barrier removal, communicate with various contractors, architects and attorneys in the case of a lawsuit. It’s just not what they do!
When I started in this industry back in 1999, there were only a handful of ADA inspectors in California and we were all certified by the International Code Counsel.
Once the certified access specialist program was introduced, it ushered in a new standard of access consulting in California. An entirely new industry was created over night.
With roughly 100 certified individuals that produce CASp inspection reports for the private commercial industry throughout California, you would think that this market is being well served!
Sadly, this is not the case.
Are these Certified Access Specialists really helping commercial clients with their access needs?
Let’s get a refresh on the basics of the CASp program.
The basic building blocks of the CASp process are:
- Hire a CAS (Certified Access Specialist) to inspect your facility
- Obtain an inspection report that identifies all ADA barriers on your property
- Put a dollar amount to removing each barrier and create a barrier removal plan
- Budget for and ultimately remove all barriers throughout your facility
Seems simple enough right?
Maybe! But most barrier removal plans are not simple and many things can go wrong if not planned properly. And when a CASp report merely identifies the barriers but does not actually provide details of how to remove these barriers properly, this is where the breakdown begins.
We all know that in order to remove physical barriers on our properties we must know what the barriers are, how to remove them properly and most importantly that everything will pass inspection when completed.
So why is it that so many CAS inspectors don’t prepare their clients for the remaining steps of the CASp process once the report is completed?
Could be that they are just not interested in being involved with this part of the process or they just don’t know how to be a part of these steps?
After 18 years in this industry, I have discovered that the type of CASp inspector you hire will make all the difference in whether or not your project makes it to the finish line or not.
Here are the top 10 questions you should ask before hiring a Certified Access Specialist:
- What services do you provide?
- Do you merely identify specific barriers on my property or do you help me itemize and prioritize my on-going barrier removal plan?
- What barriers are typically considered “readily achievable” and which are not?
- How long have you been an access specialist, and how can your experience and knowledge help minimize my need for other vendors?
- Do you provide a written detailed scope for removing barriers in your report?
- Do you produce permit ready construction documents for removing barriers or do I need to hire an architect or civil engineer?
- Do you provide unlimited phone and email service for my contractor, building inspector or my attorney or is that extra?
- Will you or your staff answer my phone calls during business hours or do I have to leave a message and wait for you to call me back?
- Are you available for “weekend or after business hour” inspections?
- Do you return after each phase of construction to certify that these changes meet the current access codes?
With so many things that seem to be working against us in the commercial industry, is it too much to ask that the CASp you hire will see your project to completion?
Of course not!
This is exactly why ADA Compliance Consultants was founded and why we have made such a difference for our clients over the years.
Every project is different and each client has different needs when it comes to their properties access requirements.
So before you hire a CASp for your next project, ask yourself “What do I really expect from a CASp”? “How involved will I have to be throughout this project or will my CASp handle most of the process for me?”
I encourage everyone to reach out to several CASp Inspectors and ask lots of questions — start with my Top 10! If you have a tenant improvement, remodel project or have just received a summons in an ADA lawsuit, you will need a knowledgeable CASp to help you through this process.
I invite you to contact me directly. I’m happy to help you produce a solid game plan moving forward so you can cross the finish line with your next ADA project.