About ADA Compliance
ADA Compliance for Businesses
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a wide-ranging civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools and transportation. The ADA also requires businesses to comply with specific accessibility standards when making physical changes to their facilities or providing goods and services.
What does the ADA require me to do?
The ADA requires you to take "readily achievable" steps to remove any barriers in your business that would prevent people with disabilities from having full access to your goods or services. You are not required to make any changes that are not necessary to provide needed access. You are also not required to take any measures that would result in undue financial or administrative burdens. Under the ADA, "readily achievable" means easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense. If you can demonstrate that your business has taken commercially feasible steps to comply with the ADA's requirements, you cannot be found non-compliant.
What if I don't make changes to my business?
If you do not take steps to remove barriers or provide goods and services in an accessible manner, people with disabilities may file a complaint with the Justice Department for discrimination under the ADA. If the Justice Department investigates and finds that you discriminated against people with disabilities, it can require you to make changes or it can get a court order requiring you to make the necessary changes.
What is "readily achievable"?
"Readily achievable" means that taking steps to remove barriers and provide goods and services in an accessible manner would require minimal difficulty or expense on your part. The term readily achievable does not require that any steps be taken that would result in undue financial and administrative burdens. What is readily achievable is determined on a case-by-case basis, with the assessment of several factors including:
- The nature and cost of the action;
- The nature and cost of the action;
- The type of operation you have;
- The numbers of people employed there;
- The effect on expenses and resources;
- The geographic separateness, and the administrative or fiscal relationship of the facility or part of a facility that would need to be modified.
The steps you can take to ensure your compliance with ADA requirements may include:
- Repositioning display racks, shelves, furniture and other equipment;
- Installing ramps or modifying existing ones to provide access to your business and its services for people with mobility disabilities;
- Making changes in the way you provide goods or services so they are accessible to persons with disabilities;
- Providing readers, taped texts, qualified interpreters or other auxiliary aids where necessary to ensure effective communication with customers, clients, patients or participants who are deaf or hard of hearing;
- Restructuring a job position to better accommodate the needs of an employee who is not fully able to participate in the job because of a disability.
To better understand your obligations under Title III, you may wish to consult an attorney.
How do I create accessible parking spaces?
The Federal Highway Administration's "Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines for Building and Facilities" has the following information on parking spaces:
Note that this is not exhaustive, but it provides an overview of all the steps necessary. The ADAAG does say that parking lot design guidelines are available from some state departments of transportation.
Make sure your employees are fully aware of these guidelines as well, so they can make sure to provide accessible parking spaces. Include the following paragraph in your company policy on disabilities:
Please note that all new buildings should have accessible parking spaces available, as required by ADA requirements. These requirements include appropriate signage designating accessible parking, vertical clearance for vehicle lift or ramp entry, clearly marked spaces that are level, and an adjacent path of travel that connects the accessible parking with the entrance to the establishment.
Why should I make my business accessible?
There are several reasons why your business should be made ADA-compliant:
- Enables you to reach out to a broader market;
- Helps increase sales because people who require special assistance are more likely to frequent your business because it is accessible;
- Makes customers feel welcome, which helps customers promote the accessibility of your establishment.
As an owner or manager of a business, you want the public to know that the services you are offering are open to everyone. Without meeting ADA requirements, people with disabilities may avoid entering your establishment.
How can a paving company help me be compliant?
Updating your parking lot with ADA regulations can help you to stay compliant. Paving companies offer new surfaces that are compliant with ADA regulations. It is important that your employees are aware of the regulations before they pour concrete, so they ensure compliance. Include these regulations in your employee handbook.
Why should I work with a paving company for my ADA-compliant parking lot?
A paving company can help you to meet or exceed ADA regulations for your parking lot. The Department of Transportation has specific guidelines that need to be followed when it comes to slot, aisle, and surface clearances. Every business is required by law to have accessible parking spaces. Contact a paving company today to learn more about the regulations, and how they can help to create an accessible parking lot for your business.
How can I maintain ADA compliance?
Compliance is essential for the success of any establishment. There are a few ways to maintain ADA compliance - through restructure, reallocation of resources, or by creating an environment that is accessible to people with disabilities. Remember, if your business does not comply with ADA regulations, customers might think it means you do not want their business and they will avoid your establishment.
The best way to create and maintain ADA compliance is to educate all employees on what needs to be done and how to go about it. This includes training on how certain tools can help improve accessibility such as ramps and elevators. Not only will this help you stay compliant with ADA regulations but it will also increase customer traffic by making them feel more comfortable visiting your establishment.
If you are unable to make your establishment ADA compliant, there other options you should consider. You may want to prioritize certain areas of your business, or make it ADA compliant in phases. For example, if the entrance is not compliant but the back of the store is, customers can still access what they need without entering through non-ADA compliant areas.
If you are not able to afford the costs associated with making your business ADA compliant, there are other options available. You might consider finding a partner or another company that can help you offset costs. For example, if an accessible bathroom is too costly for your business to install, you might consider asking a local restaurant if they would let you use theirs if your customers make a purchase.
The ADA is a law that requires businesses to be accessible for people with disabilities. A paving company can help you make your parking lot ADA compliant, but there are other ways to maintain compliance as well. If you do not meet the requirements of the ADA, some options might include prioritizing certain areas of your business or making things accessible in phases by creating an environment that is accessible to all customers and employees - even if they have special needs.
About Winter Park, FL
People, known as Paleo-Indians, entered Florida at least 14,000 years ago. By the 16th century, the earliest time for which there is a historical record, major groups of people living in Florida included the Apalachee of the Florida Panhandle, the Timucua of northern and central Florida, the Ais of the central Atlantic coast, and the Calusa of southwest Florida.
Florida was the first region of what is now the contiguous United States to be visited and settled by Europeans. The earliest known European explorers came with the Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León. Ponce de León spotted and landed on the peninsula on April 2, 1513. He named it La Florida in recognition of the verdant landscape and because it was the Easter season, which the Spaniards called Pascua Florida (Festival of Flowers). The following day they came ashore to seek information and take possession of this new land. The story that he was searching for the Fountain of Youth is mythical and appeared only long after his death.
In May 1539, Conquistador Hernando de Soto skirted the coast of Florida, searching for a deep harbor to land. He described a thick wall of red mangroves spread mile after mile, some reaching as high as 70 feet (21 m), with intertwined and elevated roots making landing difficult. The Spanish introduced Christianity, cattle, horses, sheep, the Castilian language, and more to Florida. Spain established several settlements in Florida, with varying degrees of success. In 1559, Don Tristán de Luna y Arellano established a settlement at present-day Pensacola, making it the first attempted settlement in Florida, but it was mostly abandoned by 1561.
In 1564–65 there was a French settlement at Fort Caroline, in present Duval County, which was destroyed by the Spanish.
In 1565, the settlement of St. Augustine (San Agustín) was established under the leadership of admiral and governor Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, creating what would become one of the oldest, continuously occupied European settlements in the continental U.S. and establishing the first generation of Floridanos and the Government of Florida. Spain maintained strategic control over the region by converting the local tribes to Christianity. The marriage between Luisa de Abrego, a free black domestic servant from Seville, and Miguel Rodríguez, a white Segovian, occurred in 1565 in St. Augustine. It is the first recorded Christian marriage in the continental United States.
Some Spanish married or had unions with Pensacola, Creek or African women, both slave and free, and their descendants created a mixed-race population of mestizos and mulattos. The Spanish encouraged slaves from the Thirteen Colonies to come to Florida as a refuge, promising freedom in exchange for conversion to Catholicism. King Charles II of Spain issued a royal proclamation freeing all slaves who fled to Spanish Florida and accepted conversion and baptism. Most went to the area around St. Augustine, but escaped slaves also reached Pensacola. St. Augustine had mustered an all-black militia unit defending Spanish Florida as early as 1683.
The geographical area of Spanish claims in La Florida diminished with the establishment of English settlements to the north and French claims to the west. English colonists and buccaneers launched several attacks on St. Augustine in the 17th and 18th centuries, razing the city and its cathedral to the ground several times. Spain built the Castillo de San Marcos in 1672 and Fort Matanzas in 1742 to defend Florida's capital city from attacks, and to maintain its strategic position in the defense of the Captaincy General of Cuba and the Spanish West Indies.
In 1738, the Spanish governor of Florida Manuel de Montiano established Fort Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose near St. Augustine, a fortified town for escaped slaves to whom Montiano granted citizenship and freedom in return for their service in the Florida militia, and which became the first free black settlement legally sanctioned in North America.
In 1763, Spain traded Florida to the Kingdom of Great Britain for control of Havana, Cuba, which had been captured by the British during the Seven Years' War. The trade was done as part of the 1763 Treaty of Paris which ended the Seven Years' War. Spain was granted Louisiana from France due to their loss of Florida. A large portion of the Florida population left, taking along large portions of the remaining indigenous population with them to Cuba. The British soon constructed the King's Road connecting St. Augustine to Georgia. The road crossed the St. Johns River at a narrow point called Wacca Pilatka, or the British name "Cow Ford", reflecting the fact that cattle were brought across the river there.
The British divided and consolidated the Florida provinces (Las Floridas) into East Florida and West Florida, a division the Spanish government kept after the brief British period. The British government gave land grants to officers and soldiers who had fought in the French and Indian War in order to encourage settlement. In order to induce settlers to move to Florida, reports of its natural wealth were published in England. A number of British settlers who were described as being "energetic and of good character" moved to Florida, mostly coming from South Carolina, Georgia and England. There was also a group of settlers who came from the colony of Bermuda. This was the first permanent English-speaking population in what is now Duval County, Baker County, St. Johns County and Nassau County. The British constructed good public roads and introduced the cultivation of sugar cane, indigo and fruits, as well as the export of lumber.
The British governors were directed to call general assemblies as soon as possible in order to make laws for the Floridas, and in the meantime they were, with the advice of councils, to establish courts. This was the first introduction of the English-derived legal system which Florida still has today, including trial by jury, habeas corpus and county-based government. Neither East Florida nor West Florida sent any representatives to Philadelphia to draft the Declaration of Independence. Florida remained a Loyalist stronghold for the duration of the American Revolution.
Spain regained both East and West Florida after Britain's defeat in the Revolutionary War and the subsequent Treaty of Versailles in 1783, and continued the provincial divisions until 1821.
Defense of Florida's northern border with the United States was minor during the second Spanish period. The region became a haven for escaped slaves and a base for Indian attacks against U.S. territories, and the U.S. pressed Spain for reform.
Americans of English and Scots-Irish descent began moving into northern Florida from the backwoods of Georgia and South Carolina. Though technically not allowed by the Spanish authorities and the Floridan government, they were never able to effectively police the border region and the backwoods settlers from the United States would continue to immigrate into Florida unchecked. These migrants, mixing with the already present British settlers who had remained in Florida since the British period, would be the progenitors of the population known as Florida Crackers.
These American settlers established a permanent foothold in the area and ignored Spanish authorities. The British settlers who had remained also resented Spanish rule, leading to a rebellion in 1810 and the establishment for ninety days of the so-called Free and Independent Republic of West Florida on September 23. After meetings beginning in June, rebels overcame the garrison at Baton Rouge (now in Louisiana), and unfurled the flag of the new republic: a single white star on a blue field. This flag would later become known as the "Bonnie Blue Flag".
In 1810, parts of West Florida were annexed by the proclamation of President James Madison, who claimed the region as part of the Louisiana Purchase. These parts were incorporated into the newly formed Territory of Orleans. The U.S. annexed the Mobile District of West Florida to the Mississippi Territory in 1812. Spain continued to dispute the area, though the United States gradually increased the area it occupied. In 1812, a group of settlers from Georgia, with de facto support from the U.S. federal government, attempted to overthrow the Floridan government in the province of East Florida. The settlers hoped to convince Floridians to join their cause and proclaim independence from Spain, but the settlers lost their tenuous support from the federal government and abandoned their cause by 1813.
Traditionally, historians argued that Seminoles based in East Florida began raiding Georgia settlements, and offering havens for runaway slaves. The United States Army led increasingly frequent incursions into Spanish territory, including the 1817–1818 campaign against the Seminole Indians by Andrew Jackson that became known as the First Seminole War. The United States now effectively controlled East Florida. Control was necessary according to Secretary of State John Quincy Adams because Florida had become "a derelict open to the occupancy of every enemy, civilized or savage, of the United States, and serving no other earthly purpose than as a post of annoyance to them."
More recent historians describe that after U.S. independence, settlers in Georgia increased pressure on Seminole lands, and skirmishes near the border led to the First Seminole War (1816–19). The United States purchased Florida from Spain by the Adams-Onis Treaty (1819) and took possession in 1821. The Seminole were moved out of their rich farmland in northern Florida and confined to a large reservation in the interior of the Florida peninsula by the Treaty of Moultrie Creek (1823). Passage of the Indian Removal Act (1830) led to the Treaty of Payne's Landing (1832), which called for the relocation of all Seminole to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). Some resisted, leading to the Second Seminole War, the bloodiest war against Native Americans in United States history. By 1842, however, most Seminoles and Black Seminoles, facing starvation, were removed to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River. Perhaps fewer than 200 Seminoles remained in Florida after the Third Seminole War (1855–1858), having taken refuge in the Everglades, from where they never surrendered to the US. They fostered a resurgence in traditional customs and a culture of staunch independence.
Florida had become a burden to Spain, which could not afford to send settlers or troops due to the devastation caused by the Peninsular War. Madrid, therefore, decided to cede the territory to the United States through the Adams–Onís Treaty, which took effect in 1821. President James Monroe was authorized on March 3, 1821, to take possession of East Florida and West Florida for the United States and provide for initial governance. Andrew Jackson, on behalf of the U.S. federal government, served as a military commissioner with the powers of governor of the newly acquired territory for a brief period. On March 30, 1822, the U.S. Congress merged East Florida and part of West Florida into the Florida Territory.
By the early 1800s, Indian removal was a significant issue throughout the southeastern U.S. and also in Florida. In 1830, the U.S. Congress passed the Indian Removal Act and as settlement increased, pressure grew on the U.S. government to remove the Indians from Florida. Seminoles offered sanctuary to blacks, and these became known as the Black Seminoles, and clashes between whites and Indians grew with the influx of new settlers. In 1832, the Treaty of Payne's Landing promised to the Seminoles lands west of the Mississippi River if they agreed to leave Florida. Many Seminole left at this time.
Some Seminoles remained, and the U.S. Army arrived in Florida, leading to the Second Seminole War (1835–1842). Following the war, approximately 3,000 Seminole and 800 Black Seminole were removed to Indian Territory. A few hundred Seminole remained in Florida in the Everglades.
On March 3, 1845, only one day before the end of President John Tyler's term in office, Florida became the 27th state, admitted as a slave state and no longer a sanctuary for runaway slaves. Initially its population grew slowly.
As European settlers continued to encroach on Seminole lands, the United States intervened to move the remaining Seminoles to the West. The Third Seminole War (1855–58) resulted in the forced removal of most of the remaining Seminoles, although hundreds of Seminole Indians remained in the Everglades.
The first settlements and towns in South Florida were founded much later than those in the northern part of the state. The first permanent European settlers arrived in the early 19th century. People came from the Bahamas to South Florida and the Keys to hunt for treasure from the ships that ran aground on the treacherous Great Florida Reef. Some accepted Spanish land offers along the Miami River. At about the same time, the Seminole Indians arrived, along with a group of runaway slaves. The area was affected by the Second Seminole War, during which Major William S. Harney led several raids against the Indians. Most non-Indian residents were soldiers stationed at Fort Dallas. It was the most devastating Indian war in American history, causing almost a total loss of population in Miami.
After the Second Seminole War ended in 1842, William English re-established a plantation started by his uncle on the Miami River. He charted the "Village of Miami" on the south bank of the Miami River and sold several plots of land. In 1844, Miami became the county seat, and six years later a census reported there were ninety-six residents in the area. The Third Seminole War was not as destructive as the second, but it slowed the settlement of southeast Florida. At the end of the war, a few of the soldiers stayed.
American settlers began to establish cotton plantations in north Florida, which required numerous laborers, which they supplied by buying slaves in the domestic market. By 1860, Florida had only 140,424 people, of whom 44% were enslaved. There were fewer than 1,000 free African Americans before the American Civil War.
On January 10, 1861, nearly all delegates in the Florida Legislature approved an ordinance of secession, declaring Florida to be "a sovereign and independent nation"—an apparent reassertion to the preamble in Florida's Constitution of 1838, in which Florida agreed with Congress to be a "Free and Independent State." The ordinance declared Florida's secession from the Union, allowing it to become one of the founding members of the Confederate States.
The Confederacy received little military help from Florida; the 15,000 troops it offered were generally sent elsewhere. Instead of troops and manufactured goods, Florida did provide salt and, more importantly, beef to feed the Confederate armies. This was particularly important after 1864, when the Confederacy lost control of the Mississippi River, thereby losing access to Texas beef. The largest engagements in the state were the Battle of Olustee, on February 20, 1864, and the Battle of Natural Bridge, on March 6, 1865. Both were Confederate victories. The war ended in 1865.
Following the American Civil War, Florida's congressional representation was restored on June 25, 1868, albeit forcefully after Reconstruction and the installation of unelected government officials under the final authority of federal military commanders. After the Reconstruction period ended in 1876, white Democrats regained power in the state legislature. In 1885, they created a new constitution, followed by statutes through 1889 that disfranchised most blacks and many poor whites.
In the pre-automobile era, railroads played a key role in the state's development, particularly in coastal areas. In 1883, the Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad connected Pensacola and the rest of the Panhandle to the rest of the state. In 1884 the South Florida Railroad (later absorbed by Atlantic Coast Line Railroad) opened full service to Tampa. In 1894 the Florida East Coast Railway reached West Palm Beach; in 1896 it reached Biscayne Bay near Miami. Numerous other railroads were built all over the interior of the state.
Historically, Florida's economy has been based primarily upon agricultural products such as citrus fruits, strawberries, nuts, sugarcane and cattle. The boll weevil devastated cotton crops during the early 20th century.
Until the mid-20th century, Florida was the least populous state in the southern United States. In 1900, its population was only 528,542, of whom nearly 44% were African American, the same proportion as before the Civil War. Forty thousand blacks, roughly one-fifth of their 1900 population levels in Florida, left the state in the Great Migration. They left due to lynchings and racial violence, and for better opportunities in the North and the West. Disfranchisement for most African Americans in the state persisted until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s gained federal legislation in 1965 to enforce protection of their constitutional suffrage.
In response to racial segregation in Florida, a number of protests occurred in Florida during the 1950s and 1960s as part of the Civil Rights Movement. In 1956–1957, students at Florida A&M University organized a bus boycott in Tallahassee to mimic the Montgomery bus boycott and succeeded in integrating the city's buses. Students also held sit-ins in 1960 in protest of segregated seating at local lunch counters, and in 1964 an incident at a St. Augustine motel pool, in which the owner poured acid into the water during a demonstration, influenced the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Economic prosperity in the 1920s stimulated tourism to Florida and related development of hotels and resort communities. Combined with its sudden elevation in profile was the Florida land boom of the 1920s, which brought a brief period of intense land development. In 1925, the Seaboard Air Line broke the FEC's southeast Florida monopoly and extended its freight and passenger service to West Palm Beach; two years later it extended passenger service to Miami. Devastating hurricanes in 1926 and 1928, followed by the Great Depression, brought that period to a halt. Florida's economy did not fully recover until the military buildup for World War II.
In 1939, Florida was described as "still very largely an empty State." Subsequently, the growing availability of air conditioning, the climate, and a low cost of living made the state a haven. Migration from the Rust Belt and the Northeast sharply increased Florida's population after 1945. In the 1960s, many refugees from Cuba fleeing Fidel Castro's communist regime arrived in Miami at the Freedom Tower, where the federal government used the facility to process, document and provide medical and dental services for the newcomers. As a result, the Freedom Tower was also called the "Ellis Island of the South." In recent decades, more migrants have come for the jobs in a developing economy.
With a population of more than 18 million, according to the 2010 census, Florida is the most populous state in the southeastern United States and the third-most populous in the United States. The population of Florida has boomed in recent years with the state being the recipient of the largest number of out-of-state movers in the country as of 2019. Florida's growth has been widespread, as cities throughout the state have continued to see population growth.
In 2012, the killing of Trayvon Martin, a young black man, by George Zimmerman in Sanford drew national attention to Florida's stand-your-ground laws, and sparked African-American activism nationally, including the Black Lives Matter movement.
After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in September 2017, a large population of Puerto Ricans began moving to Florida to escape the widespread destruction. Hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans arrived in Florida after Maria dissipated, with nearly half of them arriving in Orlando and large populations also moving to Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach.
A handful of high-profile mass shootings have occurred in Florida in the twenty-first century. In June 2016, a gunman killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando. It is the deadliest incident in the history of violence against LGBT people in the United States, as well as the deadliest terrorist attack in the U.S. since the September 11 attacks in 2001, and was the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history until the 2017 Las Vegas shooting. In February 2018, 17 people were killed in a school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, leading to new gun control regulations at both the state and federal level.
On June 24, 2021, a condominium in Surfside, Florida near Miami collapsed, killing at least 97 people. The Surfside collapse is tied with the Knickerbocker Theatre collapse as the third-deadliest structural engineering failure in United States history, behind the Hyatt Regency walkway collapse and the collapse of the Pemberton Mill.
Much of Florida is on a peninsula between the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean and the Straits of Florida. Spanning two time zones, it extends to the northwest into a panhandle, extending along the northern Gulf of Mexico. It is bordered on the north by Georgia and Alabama, and on the west, at the end of the panhandle, by Alabama. It is the only state that borders both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Florida also is the southernmost of the 48 contiguous states, Hawaii being the only one of the fifty states reaching farther south. Florida is west of The Bahamas and 90 miles (140 km) north of Cuba. Florida is one of the largest states east of the Mississippi River, and only Alaska and Michigan are larger in water area. The water boundary is 3 nautical miles (3.5 mi; 5.6 km) offshore in the Atlantic Ocean and 9 nautical miles (10 mi; 17 km) offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.
At 345 feet (105 m) above mean sea level, Britton Hill is the highest point in Florida and the lowest highpoint of any U.S. state. Much of the state south of Orlando lies at a lower elevation than northern Florida, and is fairly level. Much of the state is at or near sea level. However, some places such as Clearwater have promontories that rise 50 to 100 ft (15 to 30 m) above the water. Much of Central and North Florida, typically 25 mi (40 km) or more away from the coastline, have rolling hills with elevations ranging from 100 to 250 ft (30 to 76 m). The highest point in peninsular Florida (east and south of the Suwannee River), Sugarloaf Mountain, is a 312-foot (95 m) peak in Lake County. On average, Florida is the flattest state in the United States.
The climate of Florida is tempered somewhat by the fact that no part of the state is distant from the ocean. North of Lake Okeechobee, the prevalent climate is humid subtropical (Köppen: Cfa), while areas south of the lake (including the Florida Keys) have a true tropical climate (Köppen: Aw, Am, and Af). Mean high temperatures for late July are primarily in the low 90s Fahrenheit (32–34 °C). Mean low temperatures for early to mid January range from the low 40s Fahrenheit (4–7 °C) in north Florida to above 60 °F (16 °C) from Miami on southward. With an average daily temperature of 70.7 °F (21.5 °C), it is the warmest state in the U.S.
In the summer, high temperatures in the state rarely exceed 100 °F (37.8 °C). Several record cold maxima have been in the 30s °F (−1 to 4 °C) and record lows have been in the 10s (−12 to −7 °C). These temperatures normally extend at most a few days at a time in the northern and central parts of Florida. South Florida, however, rarely encounters below freezing temperatures. The hottest temperature ever recorded in Florida was 109 °F (43 °C), which was set on June 29, 1931, in Monticello. The coldest temperature was −2 °F (−19 °C), on February 13, 1899, just 25 miles (40 km) away, in Tallahassee.
Due to its subtropical and tropical climate, Florida rarely receives measurable snowfall. However, on rare occasions, a combination of cold moisture and freezing temperatures can result in snowfall in the farthest northern regions like Jacksonville, Gainesville or Pensacola. Frost, which is more common than snow, sometimes occurs in the panhandle. The USDA Plant hardiness zones for the state range from zone 8a (no colder than 10 °F or −12 °C) in the inland western panhandle to zone 11b (no colder than 45 °F or 7 °C) in the lower Florida Keys. Fog also occurs all over the state or climate of Florida.
Florida's nickname is the "Sunshine State", but severe weather is a common occurrence in the state. Central Florida is known as the lightning capital of the United States, as it experiences more lightning strikes than anywhere else in the country. Florida has one of the highest average precipitation levels of any state, in large part because afternoon thunderstorms are common in much of the state from late spring until early autumn. A narrow eastern part of the state including Orlando and Jacksonville receives between 2,400 and 2,800 hours of sunshine annually. The rest of the state, including Miami, receives between 2,800 and 3,200 hours annually.
Florida leads the United States in tornadoes per area (when including waterspouts), but they do not typically reach the intensity of those in the Midwest and Great Plains. Hail often accompanies the most severe thunderstorms.
Hurricanes pose a severe threat each year from June 1 to November 30, particularly from August to October. Florida is the most hurricane-prone state, with subtropical or tropical water on a lengthy coastline. Of the category 4 or higher storms that have struck the United States, 83% have either hit Florida or Texas.
From 1851 to 2006, Florida was struck by 114 hurricanes, 37 of them major—category 3 and above. It is rare for a hurricane season to pass without any impact in the state by at least a tropical storm.
In 1992, Florida was the site of what was then the costliest weather disaster in U.S. history, Hurricane Andrew, which caused more than $25 billion in damages when it struck during August; it held that distinction until 2005, when Hurricane Katrina surpassed it, and it has since been surpassed by six other hurricanes. Andrew is currently the second-costliest hurricane in Florida's history.
Florida is host to many types of wildlife including:
Florida also has more than 500 nonnative animal species and 1,000 nonnative insects found throughout the state. Some exotic species living in Florida include the Burmese python, green iguana, veiled chameleon, Argentine black and white tegu, peacock bass, mayan cichlid, lionfish, White-nosed coati, rhesus macaque, vervet monkey, Cuban tree frog, cane toad, Indian peafowl, monk parakeet, tui parakeet, and many more. Some of these nonnative species do not pose a threat to any native species, but some do threaten the native species of Florida by living in the state and eating them.
The state has more than 26,000 square miles (67,000 km) of forests, covering about half of the state's land area.
There are about 3,000 different types of wildflowers in Florida. This is the third-most diverse state in the union, behind California and Texas, both larger states. In Florida, wild populations of coconut palms extend up the East Coast from Key West to Jupiter Inlet, and up the West Coast from Marco Island to Sarasota. Many of the smallest coral islands in the Florida Keys are known to have abundant coconut palms sprouting from coconuts deposited by ocean currents. Coconut palms are cultivated north of south Florida to roughly Cocoa Beach on the East Coast and the Tampa Bay Area on the West Coast.
On the east coast of the state, mangroves have normally dominated the coast from Cocoa Beach southward; salt marshes from St. Augustine northward. From St. Augustine south to Cocoa Beach, the coast fluctuates between the two, depending on the annual weather conditions. All three mangrove species flower in the spring and early summer. Propagules fall from late summer through early autumn. Florida mangrove plant communities covered an estimated 430,000 to 540,000 acres (1,700 to 2,200 km) in Florida in 1981. Ninety percent of the Florida mangroves are in southern Florida, in Collier, Lee, Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties.
The Florida Reef is the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States. It is also the third-largest coral barrier reef system in the world, after the Great Barrier Reef and the Belize Barrier Reef. The reef lies a little bit off of the coast of the Florida Keys. A lot of the reef lies within John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, which was the first underwater park in the United States. The park contains a lot of tropical vegetation, marine life, and seabirds. The Florida Reef extends into other parks and sanctuaries as well including Dry Tortugas National Park, Biscayne National Park, and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Almost 1,400 species of marine plants and animals, including more than 40 species of stony corals and 500 species of fish, live on the Florida Reef. The Florida Reef, being a delicate ecosystem like other coral reefs, faces many threats including overfishing, plastics in the ocean, coral bleaching, rising sea levels, and changes in sea surface temperature.
Florida is a low per capita energy user. As of 2008, it is estimated that approximately 4% of energy in the state is generated through renewable resources. Florida's energy production is 6% of the nation's total energy output, while total production of pollutants is lower, with figures of 6% for nitrogen oxide, 5% for carbon dioxide, and 4% for sulfur dioxide. Wildfires in Florida occur at all times of the year.
All potable water resources have been controlled by the state government through five regional water authorities since 1972.
Red tide has been an issue on the southwest coast of Florida, as well as other areas. While there has been a great deal of conjecture over the cause of the toxic algae bloom, there is no evidence that it is being caused by pollution or that there has been an increase in the duration or frequency of red tides. Red tide is now killing off wildlife or Tropical fish and coral reefs putting all in danger.
The Florida panther is close to extinction. A record 23 were killed in 2009, mainly by automobile collisions, leaving about 100 individuals in the wild. The Center for Biological Diversity and others have therefore called for a special protected area for the panther to be established. Manatees are also dying at a rate higher than their reproduction. American flamingos are rare to see in Florida due to being hunted in the 1900s, where it was to a point considered completely extirpated. Now the flamingos are reproducing toward making a comeback to South Florida since it is adamantly considered native to the state and also are now being protected.
Much of Florida has an elevation of less than 12 feet (3.7 m), including many populated areas. Therefore, it is susceptible to rising sea levels associated with global warming. The Atlantic beaches that are vital to the state's economy are being washed out to sea due to rising sea levels caused by climate change. The Miami beach area, close to the continental shelf, is running out of accessible offshore sand reserves. Elevated temperatures can damage coral reefs, causing coral bleaching. The first recorded bleaching incident on the Florida Reef was in 1973. Incidents of bleaching have become more frequent in recent decades, in correlation with a rise in sea surface temperatures. White band disease has also adversely affected corals on the Florida Reef.
The Florida peninsula is a porous plateau of karst limestone sitting atop bedrock known as the Florida Platform.
The largest deposits of potash in the United States are found in Florida. The largest deposits of rock phosphate in the country are found in Florida. Most of this is in Bone Valley.
Extended systems of underwater caves, sinkholes and springs are found throughout the state and supply most of the water used by residents. The limestone is topped with sandy soils deposited as ancient beaches over millions of years as global sea levels rose and fell. During the last glacial period, lower sea levels and a drier climate revealed a much wider peninsula, largely savanna. While there are sinkholes in much of the state, modern sinkholes have tended to be in West-Central Florida. Everglades National Park covers 1,509,000 acres (6,110 km), throughout Dade, Monroe, and Collier counties in Florida. The Everglades, an enormously wide, slow-flowing river encompasses the southern tip of the peninsula. Sinkhole damage claims on property in the state exceeded a total of $2 billion from 2006 through 2010. Winter Park Sinkhole, in central Florida, appeared May 8, 1981. It was approximately 350 feet (107 m) wide and 75 feet (23 m) deep. It was notable as one of the largest recent sinkholes to form in the United States. It is now known as Lake Rose. The Econlockhatchee River (Econ River for short) is an 87.7-kilometer-long (54.5 mi) north-flowing blackwater tributary of the St. Johns River, the longest river in the U.S. state of Florida. The Econ River flows through Osceola, Orange, and Seminole counties in Central Florida, just east of the Orlando Metropolitan Area (east of State Road 417). It is a designated Outstanding Florida Waters.
Earthquakes are rare because Florida is not located near any tectonic plate boundaries.
The largest metropolitan area in the state as well as the entire southeastern United States is the Miami metropolitan area, with about 6.06 million people. The Tampa Bay Area, with more than 3.02 million, is the second largest; the Orlando metropolitan area, with more than 2.44 million, is third; and the Jacksonville metropolitan area, with more than 1.47 million, is fourth.
Florida has 22 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) defined by the United States Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Forty-three of Florida's 67 counties are in an MSA.
The legal name in Florida for a city, town or village is "municipality". In Florida there is no legal difference between towns, villages and cities.
Florida is a highly urbanized state, with 89 percent of its population living in urban areas in
2000, compared to 79 percent nationally.
In 2012, 75% of the population lived within 10 miles (16 km) of the coastline.
The United States Census Bureau estimated that the population of Florida was 21,477,737 on July 1, 2019, a 14.24% increase since the 2010 United States census. The population of Florida in the 2010 census was 18,801,310. Florida was the seventh fastest-growing state in the U.S. in the 12-month period ending July 1, 2012. In 2010, the center of population of Florida was located between Fort Meade and Frostproof. The center of population has moved less than 5 miles (8 km) to the east and approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) to the north between 1980 and 2010 and has been located in Polk County since the 1960 census. The population exceeded 19.7 million by December 2014, surpassing the population of the state of New York for the first time, making Florida the third most populous state. The Florida population was 21,477,737 residents or people according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2019 Population Estimates Program. By the 2020 census, its population increased to 21,538,187.
As of 2011, Florida contains the highest percentage of people over 65 (17.3%) in the U.S. There were 186,102 military retirees living in the state in 2008. About two-thirds of the population was born in another state, the second-highest in the U.S.
In 2010, undocumented immigrants constituted an estimated 5.7% of the population. This was the sixth highest percentage of any U.S. state. There were an estimated 675,000 illegal immigrants in the state in 2010. Florida has banned sanctuary cities.
In 2020, Hispanic and Latinos of any race(s) made up 26.5% of the population, while Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders made up 0.1% of all Broward County residents.
In 2010, 6.9% of the population (1,269,765) considered themselves to be of only American ancestry (regardless of race or ethnicity). Many of these were of English or Scotch-Irish descent; however, their families have lived in the state for so long they choose to identify as having "American" ancestry or do not know their ancestry. In the 1980 United States census, the largest ancestry group reported in Florida was English with 2,232,514 Floridians claiming they were of English or mostly English American ancestry. Some of their ancestry dated to the original thirteen colonies.
As of 2010, those of (non-Hispanic white) European ancestry accounted for 57.9% of Florida's population. Out of the 57.9%, the largest groups were 12.0% German (2,212,391), 10.7% Irish (1,979,058), 8.8% English (1,629,832), 6.6% Italian (1,215,242), 2.8% Polish (511,229), and 2.7% French (504,641). White Americans of all European backgrounds are present in all areas of the state. In 1970, non-Hispanic whites constituted nearly 80% of Florida's population. Those of English and Irish ancestry are present in large numbers in all the urban/suburban areas across the state. Some native white Floridians, especially those who have descended from long-time Florida families, may refer to themselves as "Florida crackers"; others see the term as a derogatory one. Like whites in most other states of the southern U.S., they descend mainly from English and Scots-Irish settlers, as well as some other British American settlers.
As of 2010, those of Hispanic or Latino ancestry accounted for 22.5% (4,223,806) of Florida's population. Out of the 22.5%, the largest groups were 6.5% (1,213,438) Cuban, and 4.5% (847,550) Puerto Rican. Florida's Hispanic population includes large communities of Cuban Americans in Miami and Tampa, Puerto Ricans in Orlando and Tampa, and Mexican/Central American migrant workers. The Hispanic community continues to grow more affluent and mobile. Florida has a large and diverse Hispanic population, with Cubans and Puerto Ricans being the largest groups in the state. Nearly 80% of Cuban Americans live in Florida, especially South Florida where there is a long-standing and affluent Cuban community. Florida has the second-largest Puerto Rican population after New York, as well as the fastest-growing in the nation. Puerto Ricans are more widespread throughout the state, though the heaviest concentrations are in the Orlando area of Central Florida. Florida has one of the largest and most diverse Hispanic/Latino populations in the country, especially in South Florida around Miami, and to a lesser degree Central Florida. Aside from the dominant Cuban and Puerto Rican populations, there are also large populations of Mexicans, Colombians, Venezuelans and Dominicans, among numerous other groups, as most Latino groups have sizable numbers in the state.
As of 2010, those of African ancestry accounted for 16.0% of Florida's population, which includes African Americans. Out of the 16.0%, 4.0% (741,879) were West Indian or Afro-Caribbean American. During the early 1900s, black people made up nearly half of the state's population. In response to segregation, disfranchisement and agricultural depression, many African Americans migrated from Florida to northern cities in the Great Migration, in waves from 1910 to 1940, and again starting in the later 1940s. They moved for jobs, better education for their children and the chance to vote and participate in society. By 1960, the proportion of African Americans in the state had declined to 18%. Conversely, large numbers of northern whites moved to the state. Today, large concentrations of black residents can be found in northern and central Florida. Aside from blacks descended from African slaves brought to the southern U.S., there are also large numbers of blacks of West Indian, recent African, and Afro-Latino immigrant origins, especially in the Miami/South Florida area. Florida has the largest West Indian population of any state, originating from many Caribbean countries, with Haitian Americans being the most numerous.
In 2016, Florida had the highest percentage of West Indians in the United States at 4.5%, with 2.3% (483,874) from Haitian ancestry, 1.5% (303,527) Jamaican, and 0.2% (31,966) Bahamian, with the other West Indian groups making up the rest.
As of 2010, those of Asian ancestry accounted for 2.4% of Florida's population.
In 1988, English was affirmed as the state's official language in the Florida Constitution. Spanish is also widely spoken, especially as immigration has continued from Latin America. About twenty percent of the population speak Spanish as their first language. Twenty-seven percent of Florida's population reports speaking a mother language other than English, and more than 200 first languages other than English are spoken at home in the state.
The most common languages spoken in Florida as a first language in 2010 are:
Florida is mostly Christian (70%), although there is a large irreligious and relatively significant Jewish community. Protestants account for almost half of the population, but the Catholic Church is the largest single denomination in the state mainly due to its large Hispanic population and other groups like Haitians. Protestants are very diverse, although Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals and nondenominational Protestants are the largest groups. Smaller Christian groups include The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Jehovah's Witnesses. There is also a sizable Jewish community in South Florida. This is the largest Jewish population in the southern U.S. and the third-largest in the U.S. behind those of New York and California.
In 2010, the three largest denominations in Florida were the Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, and the United Methodist Church.
The Pew Research Center survey in 2014 gave the following religious makeup of Florida: