ADA Requirements for Classroom Seating

Student in wheelchair sitting at desk
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The Americans with Disabilities Act sets minimum requirements that will allow facilities to be accessible to people with disabilities. Classroom and school settings are listed in these standards to allow for functional use of space and accommodation for all learners. Requirements are slightly varied -- based on the purpose of the classroom -- with a minimum of 2 percent of the seating available for wheelchairs and 31-inch clearance of tables.

Accessible Design

The ADA's standard of accessible design incorporates seven principles: equitable use, flexibility in use, simple and intuitive use, perceptible information, tolerance for error, low physical effort and size and space for approach and use into the design of a space or facility.

Requirements

The ADA states that at least 5 percent of classroom tables must be wheelchair-accessible. Tables must be between 28 and 34 inches high with at least 24 inches of knee clearance to accommodate students in wheelchairs. Adjustable tables are recommended, but not required, to better accommodate students. If tablet-arm chairs are provided, 10 percent should be left-hand accessible and the tablet should be at least 130 square inches with a textured seat. Classrooms with one entrance and exit are limited to a 49-person capacity.

Lecture Halls

College and university classes are often taught in large lecture halls. The ADA has special requirements for lecture hall settings. For theater-style seating, the seats must be 21 inches wide or larger and fold-down tablet arms should be provided. Aisles should be present in the lecture hall to provide connection between the teacher and students. A semicircle arrangement of tiered seats is ideal, but not required. If there is a platform in the room, ADA requirements state there must be ramp access. If stadium seating is not utilized, standard-size chairs with a sled base are preferred.

Computer Rooms

In many classroom settings there are computer work areas. A dedicated computer classroom requires 30 to 35 square feet per person. The workspace must be 30 inches deep and 36 inches wide per person, although between 42- and 48-inch-wide spaces are preferred. There should be sufficient workspace around the computer for students to take notes.

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