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Are Your Restaurant Table Tops ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) Compliant?

Making sure that each customer feels welcome and has a great dining experience is the goal of any restaurant owner. However, achieving this goal requires more than a smiling waitress and a perfectly cooked steak. 28 years ago, the American Disabilities Act laid out regulations that required a welcoming place for everybody in every restaurant. These regulations affect not only the restaurant design and floor plan, but the seating arrangements as well.

So, what does this all mean for your restaurant? To get started, let’s take a crash course on the ADA.

What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

This Act was signed into law in 1990 and makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of disability in the areas of employment, public service, public accommodations, and commercial facilities. The area that pertains to seating in a restaurant or bar is Title III. This Title states that “…no individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases, or operates a place of public accommodation.”

Newer facilities, constructed after July 26, 1990, must make their facilities readily accessible. Older facilities, constructed before July 26, 1990, must remove physical barriers if readily achievable or easily accomplished without much difficulty or expense. The ADA regulations do not define the specifics about the degree of “difficulty” or “expense”; therefore, judgment is made on a case-by-case basis. It is possible that a facility does not have to remove a barrier because the law will consider the nature and cost, as well as the overall financial resources of the facility.

The goal of the ADA is to give every person the opportunity to benefit from the services and goods that a business may offer, as well as for the business to benefit from the patronage of every citizen.

Which Sizes of Restaurant Table Tops are ADA Compliant?

A typical two or four seat restaurant table with a single center base is not ADA accessible. In order to be ADA accessible, a handicap accessible restaurant table should have legs at the four corners or two prong end style bases, both of which we at Timeworn can provide. You must also provide a minimum of 27” of clearance from the floor to the bottom of the table top and should have a minimum of 36” of uninterrupted space across the side of the table.

Our most requested restaurant table top sizes for ADA accessibility are 30” x 48” or 36” x 48”. Our team can provide either a cantilever to attach these tables directly to a wall or, as mentioned previously, we can utilize bases on either end allowing for a clear space exceeding 36” on both sides of the table. You can learn more about the 2 prong end style bases as well as the cantilever style on our Restaurant Table Bases page.  Below are pictures of both base styles:

ADA restaurant table signs. The can be applied directly to your restaurant tabletops and are required by law in most states.

Do I Need to Post Signage Indicating Which Restaurant Dining Tables are Designated ADA Compliant?

From what our team has found, regulations do not require a business owner to post signage indicating restaurant table ADA compliance. However, some states do require an International Symbol of Accessibility. With this in mind, we recommend that all restaurant owners post such signage on their applicable restaurant tables as good practice. Here is an example of a small wheel-chair accessible symbol that is small enough to attach to the edge of our wooden restaurant tables.

How Many ADA Accessible Seats Must be Provided at a Restaurant?

When your restaurant or bar has 20 tables or more, it is required that 5% of the total number of seats in your restaurant be ADA accessible. If your restaurant or bar has less than 20 tables, you need exactly one table to be ADA accessible. It is worth noting that if your location has outdoor seating those seats must be included in your calculations.
If you need help deciding where to put your ADA compliant restaurant tables in your restaurant’s floor plan, or you simply need help in determining the number of table tops required, please be sure to contact an architect, designer, or your local building department.  For general ADA recommendations, Timeworn Wood will also be able to help.
Please Note: the above is a description of what we perceive to be fact based on the public information available for Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Timeworn team highly recommends that you familiarize yourself with the information, which can be found at www.ada.gov/taman3.html. Once you feel you are ready to proceed, you can submit a set of drawings with your local building inspector for review and approval. Specific ADA requirements may vary by city or state so it is important to review this information with your architect, designer, or inspector.