The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, was created to ensure reasonable access in public spaces, restaurants, hotels and other areas for people with disabilities. For many Americans, daily life requires using a wheelchair or motorized scooter, which lowers the height and distance they are able to reach without extraordinary effort. The ADA has height requirement provisions for counters, tables and other articles where wheelchair use could impair a person's ability to effectively maneuver, work and rest.
Drinking fountains that comply with ADA regulations must be no taller than 36 inches, as measured from the floor to the water spout. A clear area of at least 27 inches must be available under the fountain for leg clearance. If that is not possible because the fountain is situated flush with a wall, there must be 30 to 48 inches of clear space to approach the fountain sideways, as explained at the website access-board.gov.
Maximum height for articles such as elevator call buttons is 48 inches as measured from the floor or ground to the button. Additionally, the Department of Justice has assigned a maximum forward reach that is also 48 inches measured from the back of a wheelchair wheel to the wall where the button is located, as illustrated at ada.gov. The 48-inch rule applies to many wall-mounted articles besides buttons or levers because that measurement is a comfortable and safe distance for a person using a wheelchair to reach. An example is braille or tactile signage, which also must be no taller than 48 inches.
Non-tactile signage must meet certain requirements set forth by the ADA. Signs hung between 40 and 70 inches high, as measured from the floor to the top of the lettering, that are to be viewed at distances of less than 6 feet must contain characters at least 5/8-inch tall. The range increases proportionally to include signs installed 120 inches from the floor, viewed from more than 21 feet and include characters 3 inches tall, increasing by 1/8-inch by each additional foot away the sign is to be viewed, as shown at fastsigns.com.
Kitchen and Bathroom Counters
Counter tops in ADA accessible units or workplaces must be installed 28-34 inches high, as measured from the floor, with the most common height being 32 inches. Knee room consideration is also important. At least 24 inches of space from the floor to the bottom of the counter is necessary for a person using a wheelchair to work comfortably. Other considerations with counters are shallow sinks and single lever faucets, as explained at asktooltalk.com.
Read More: Commercial Bathroom Handicap Guidelines
Carole Oldroyd, a writer based in East Tennessee, has authored numerous DIY home improvement, Human Resources, HR and Law articles. In addition to holding a degree in paralegal studies, she has more than 10 years of experience renovating newer homes and restoring historic property.