Facilities built prior to January 1992 - elements that do not comply with the 2010 Standards shall be made compliant under the "Readily Achievable" barrier removal obligation, unless alterations to those elements takes place. If elements are altered, then compliance with the 2010 Standards is required, and "Readily Achievable" does not apply.
Facilities built between January 26, 1992 and March 15, 2012 were required to comply with 1991 ADA Standards when constructed. If full compliance with the 1991 Standards was not achieved by March 15, 2012, then the facilities must comply with the 2010 Standards. If elements in compliance with the 1991 Standards were altered after March 15, 2012, then compliance with the 2010 Standards is required. The "Readily Achievable" barrier removal obligation applies only to elements not covered by the 1992 Standards, such as playgrounds. If such elements are altered , they must comply with the 2010 Standards.
Businesses and non-profit organizations that serve the public are to remove architectural barriers when it is “readily achievable” to do so. Readily achievable barrier removal is defined by the ADA as "easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense." The decision of what is readily achievable is made by considering the size, type, and overall finances of the public accommodation and the nature and cost of the access improvements needed. Barrier removal that is difficult now may be readily achievable in the future as finances change.
Example of non-compliant accessible parking sign
The DSA's regulation recommends priorities for removing barriers in existing facilities; because the resources available for barrier removal may not be adequate to remove all existing barriers at any given time, the regulation suggests a way to determine which barriers should be mitigated or eliminated first. The purpose of these priorities is to facilitate long-term business planning and to maximize the degree of effective access that will result from any given level of expenditure. These priorities are not mandatory. Public accommodations are free to exercise discretion in determining the most effective "mix" of barrier removal measures to undertake in their facilities.
The regulation suggests that a public accommodation's first priority should be to enable individuals with disabilities to physically enter its facility. This priority on "getting through the door" recognizes providing physical access to a facility from public sidewalks, public transportation, or parking is generally preferable to any alternative arrangements in terms of both business efficiency and the dignity of individuals with disabilities.
The next priority is for measures that provide access to those areas of a place of public accommodation where goods and services are made available to the public. For example, in a hardware store, to the extent that it is readily achievable to do so, individuals with disabilities should be given access not only to assistance at the front desk, but also access, like that available to other customers, to the retail display areas of the store.
The following priority should be providing access to restrooms, if restrooms are provided for use by customers, clients, and the public.
The last priority is to remove any remaining barriers to using the public accommodation's facility by, for example, lowering telephones.