Business / Economy

Businesses, property owners invited to informational discussion on Americans with Disabilities Act

Meeting prompted by lawsuits waged against Hollister businesses for alleged ADA violations
ADA Informational Meeting March 15, 2017.png

In response to a recent rash of lawsuits waged against local businesses, the City of Hollister is hosting an informational discussion on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with Certified Access Inspector Brent Hipsher from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, March 15 in the Hollister City Council Chambers at 375 Fifth St.

The purpose of the event is to provide local businesses with information about their rights and responsibilities for ensuring proper accessibility.

Serial ADA lawsuits are not new to California businesses. It is estimated that as many as 14,000 suits have been filed in just the past few years by only a small number of lawyers causing many businesses to close, lay off employees or seek bankruptcy protection. As reported in the San Jose Mercury News late last year, a serial filer sued 39 businesses in the East Bay and South Bay areas in and around San Jose, targeting mom-and-pop shops owned by immigrants and minorities.

According to the California Restaurant Association, the ADA continues to be an actively litigated and addressed statute. Moreover, it continues to be imperative for business property owners and tenants, especially those in hospitality, to become familiar with the legal requirements they must fulfill to ensure equal access to their premises for persons with disabilities. Education and prompt action is the solution to avoid, if not minimize, financial exposure for violations of disability access laws. This will benefit both small and large companies for not being proactive and will lead to increased liability and cost in having to defend and settle ADA cases.

There are several common misconceptions about the ADA, which still persist despite the fact that the it was first enacted nearly 25 years ago. To best defend against an ADA claim, business owners are encouraged to not rely on common misconceptions and be sure their property is in compliance with the ADA.

Making a business accessible is not a one time endeavor, it is an ongoing responsibility, experts say. Various state and federal disability access laws apply to small businesses in California. Non-compliance can result in significant expense from defending and settling “drive-by” lawsuits. Business owners/tenants are responsible for making sure that businesses comply with the federal and state ADA requirements.

For more information, attend the City of Hollister ADA discussion and download the "ADA Requirements" and "Your Small Business FAQs" and resource brochure developed by the City of Hollister Development Services Department.  

Kristina Chavez Wyatt

With more than a decade of community engagement, business advocacy, public relations and government affairs experience, Kristina Chavez Wyatt specializes in building and favorably positioning projects, programs, products and organizations via building coalitions of support through grassroots community engagement. She currently focuses on developing and executing strategic communications programs, building relationships, economic development strategy, business advocacy and navigating processes of government. Kristina formed Farmhouse Communications in 2011 following serving as a senior account executive for prominent national public affairs firm Meridian Pacific, Inc. and a central coast public relations firm Armanasco Public Relations, Inc. where she specialized in community relations, government affairs and media relations with a primary focus on PR, public affairs, land use and environmental policy, hospitality & tourism development, business advocacy, agriculture and grassroots community engagement. Kristina serves as Executive Director of the San Benito County Business Council, as a community engagement consultant in business development, energy, land use, agriculture and public policy sectors. She also serves as a Client Advisor for California Manufacturing Technology Consulting (CMTC). She is active throughout the Central Coast region in Farm Day agricultural education programs, area Chambers of Commerce, Farm Bureaus of San Benito, Monterey and Santa Clara Counties, Rotary Club of Hollister and California Women for Agriculture. She was appointed by Governor Brown in July 2014 to serve as a Trustee of the 33rd Agricultural District/San Benito County Fair. Kristina has been recognized as the 2009 Salinas Jaycees Outstanding Young Citizen, the 2010 Central Coast Young Farmers and Ranchers Member of the Year and 2010 Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce Member of the Year. Under her leadership, Farmhouse Communications was honored by the San Benito County Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau as 2015 Service Business of the Year. Kristina’s work in community engagement as a member of the project team on the City of Salinas Economic Development Element was lauded in May and July 2015 by the American Planning Association Northern California and California State Chapters with awards of excellence for economic development planning and in April 2016 with an Outstanding Award in planning by the Association of Environmental Professionals. Kristina is a 5th generation Californian, raised in Gilroy. She is a graduate of Gavilan College and the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo College of Agriculture and lives in Hollister with her husband Craig Wyatt who works as an agricultural crop production supervisor, their twin daughters Hailey and Molly and dog Rabbit.