Pop-up Shops and ADA Compliance
Pop-up retail shops are all about the experience. How can ADA compliance help open your pop-up shop to all people?
Let’s explore what pop-up shops are, who is responsible for ADA compliance, and where to look for accessibility issues.
Pop-up shop popularity
Pop-up concepts have emerged as a useful tool for property owners and retailers alike. One estimate states this is now an $80 billion industry.
Pop-ups may benefit property owners in a number of ways:
- Help attract and vet potential tenants.
- Fill space in between other leases.
- Generate attention about a property.
- Bolster revenue of a primary space.
For the retailer, pop-ups can be a successful way to boost awareness and increase sales in the store and online. Pop-ups are also frequently used to test-drive a retail concept or to launch a new product. Generating buzz or attracting influencers can be part of the strategy. In large cities and small towns, pop-ups are opening in every industry.
Who is responsible for ADA compliance in Pop-Up Shops?
How does accessibility apply to a pop-up? The term of a lease may be anywhere from a few hours to a few months. So, occupancy may start just a few days before launch. Long-term improvements generally are not made for these spaces. Yet it is important to make all spaces accessible and welcoming to all shoppers.
Public and private entities that have facilities used by the public – including pop-up shops – are considered public accommodations. Title III of the ADA applies to public accommodations. The ADA states that the landlord who owns a building and the tenant who operates a business are both public accommodations. However, the ADA does not specify how responsibility is to be allocated between the two. This is generally addressed in the contract or lease, but can sometimes be overlooked.
What are the responsibilities?
One of the primary principles of the ADA is that barrier removal is required if it is readily achievable. In many cases, the landlord is responsible for barrier removal in the common spaces.
Common spaces include:
- Entrances to a mall
- Curb ramps at an in-line shopping center
The tenant is generally responsible for areas within its own space, such as routes through the space, service counters, and fitting rooms. It is recommended that a contract or lease clarify these responsibilities.
Public accommodations are also responsible for providing auxiliary aids and services, to assist with providing effective communication to customers with communication disabilities. For example, consider a pop-up that includes entertainment. This type of public accommodation may be responsible for providing sign language interpreters or captioned media. The intent is to verify that all customers are offered equal access.
Allocation of responsibility also applies to policies, practices, and procedures. It is generally recommended that the lease or contract also specify landlord and tenant responsibility for these matters.
Pop-up shop accessibility challenges
Accessibility issues commonly found in the retail world:
- Merchandise and displays that block the accessible route.
- Failure to provide low accessible service counters.
- Displays or merchandise that create a protruding object hazard for people who are blind or have low vision.
Although pop-ups are typically short-term, they are becoming more common. Typically pop-ups are located in existing properties, where alterations must be accessible and usable for people with disabilities. It’s a good idea to consult with an attorney and accessibility consultant to verify that facilities, goods, and service are readily accessible and usable by customers with disabilities.
Written by Kate Gonzalez
 American Bar