Accessible Business Entrance Program

Effective May 22, 2016, the Accessible Business Entrance Program (ABE) requires owners of buildings that serve the public to make their primary entrances accessible for people with disabilities.

For up-to-date information about the ABE, visit the SF Department of Building Inspection's webpage, www.sfdbi.org/abe. 

Ordinance No. 51-16 (Mandatory Disability Access Improvement) was passed by the Board of Supervisors in April 2016 to improve access to goods and services for people with disabilities at San Francisco businesses and help property owners and businesses better comply with state and federal accessibility laws. 

As a San Francisco Building Code addition, the ABE is administered by the SF Department of Building Inspection (DBI). An interagency working group is helping with implementation, which includes the Planning Department, SF Public Works, the Access Appeals Commission, Mayor's Office on Disability, and the Office of Small Business. 

What does the ABE mean for small businesses? 

If your business serves the public, your building entrance is likely subject to the ABE. Your property owner should comply with the ABE. 

If your landlord has contacted you about the ABE, review this webpage, and contact OSB for assistance. 

If you own your property, review the ABE Guide for Property Owners to understand your obligations under the ABE in accordance with federal, state, and local laws. 

Small Business Support Services: OSB offers ABE support services to small businesses, including:
  • Individualized case management and referral to other departments as needed
  • Explanation of property owner vs. tenant responsibilities
  • Referral to financial and legal resources
  • Resources to identify a Certified Access Specialist (CASp) or design professional 
  • Explaining the overlay of the ABE with federal and state accessibility laws.
What entrances are subject to the ABE?

“Places of public accommodation” are subject to the ABE and, generally speaking, are businesses that offer goods and services to the public. This includes restaurants, bars, retail stores, dry-cleaners, hotels, daycare centers, nail salons, gas stations, and hair salons. 

Public accommodations

  • Unsure whether your business is a place of public accommodation or exempt? Call the Department of Justice ADA phone line at 1-800-514-0301.

There are four exemptions: (1) Newly constructed buildings built on or after 2002; (2) Buildings or businesses owned and operated by religious organizations; (3) “Bona fide” private clubs; and (4) Buildings in which all businesses are not public accommodations.

When a property owner is unable to remove barriers due to technically infeasibility or unreasonable hardship, an application and narrative justifying the request can be submitted to DBI and the Access Appeals Commission. In those cases, an alternate method of providing goods and services to persons with disabilities is required.

Compliance Categories and Timeline

Visit www.sfdbi.org/abe for the latest compliance schedule, compliance steps, and required forms. 

Property owners should contact DBI directly for questions:

Department of Building Inspection
49 South Van Ness, 2nd Floor
Phone: (628) 652-3704
Email: dbi.businessentrance@sfgov.org

For help identifying a CASp to hire, visit: Database of CASp Inspectors Serving San Francisco. Review our Tips for Selecting a CASp handout. 

Disability Access and Your Small Business

Tenants and property owners share an ongoing obligation to remove barriers to accessibility. Small businesses should take proactive steps to assess the inside of their business for barriers. You can start by hiring a Certified Access Specialist (CASp) for an access inspection and remediate areas of non-compliance. The worst thing for a business to do is nothing. Don’t let yourself be blindsided by a lawsuit. The majority of people who sue for ADA non-compliance are serial litigants and drive-by lawsuits who generally sue for readily achievable upgrades. 

Visit our ADA Resources page for information and resources.