AB 2164 by Assemblymember Alex Lee (D-San José), passed out of the Senate Governmental Organization Committee with bipartisan support after recently passing out of the State Assembly (69-0) on May 25th. The bill helps ensure that small businesses can receive funds to make accessibility-related improvements so that Californians with disabilities have barrier-free access to businesses and other facilities. The bill is supported by both business and disability advocacy groups including CalChamber and Disability Rights California.
In 1990, the U.S. Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to protect individuals from discrimination on the basis of disability which include physical accessibility requirements for privately-owned businesses. In California state law, the Unruh Civil Rights Act provides similar protections for individuals with disabilities, and the California Building Code provides comprehensive building accessibility standards.
Businesses must comply with the ADA, which means integrating changes that improve accessibility, such as ramps and doors wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs. Being out of compliance can mean barriers that impede those with disabilities from accessing important goods and services, and puts the business at risk of litigation.
Despite legal protections and government assistance programs, business accessibility has remained a major concern. Some businesses have struggled to understand the complex requirements or have been unable to raise funding for necessary physical improvements.
“It can be difficult for small business owners to become compliant, especially for those with limited English or access to financial resources,” said Assemblymember Alex Lee. “By ensuring small businesses have access to the funds to make these improvements to become ADA compliant – it’s a win for everyone.”
AB 2164 supports local jurisdictions by sustaining funding to improve accessibility in their regions. The bill would remove the January 1, 2024 fee sunset, enabling local governments to collect the $4.00 Disability Access and Education Revolving Fund (DAERF) fee indefinitely. AB 2164 would also clarify the ability for local jurisdictions to use these funds for accessibility-related grants for small businesses to fund accessibility-related certification, design, construction, and permitting fees.
The bill is sponsored by the City of San José and co-authored by Assemblymembers Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park), Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley), and Senator Josh Becker (D-Peninsula).