Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted 27 years ago, many small businesses still struggle to make their storefronts ADA-compliant. The necessary upgrades are often cost-prohibitive. Moreover, some business owners avoid making any renovations for fear of triggering ADA compliance requirements. In 2014, the Massachusetts city of Cambridge reconfigured its Storefront Improvement Program’s benefits to target the ADA hurdle and improve public access to businesses in the city.
The program has been in place since 1996, offering technical assistance and funding for signage, facade, and accessibility improvements. Now, in addition to these benefits, ADA-related improvements are eligible for 90 percent matching grants up to $20,000—the average price of an elevator lift or ramp—encouraging a more disability-friendly business environment.