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How restaurant seating could lead to claims of ADA violations

On Behalf of | Apr 22, 2024 | ADA |

Businesses operating in the United States have a legal obligation to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under this law, workers and patrons with disabling medical conditions can expect certain accommodations from businesses. The accommodations required of modern companies range from accessible websites to accessible physical facilities. Certain types of businesses largely rely on the physical presence of patrons to do business. For example, restaurants often earn the most money from patrons who have sit-down service.

Unfortunately, tables and seating can quickly create obstacles for those with certain medical challenges. Wheelchair users, for example, may find fixed furniture difficult to utilize. Could the furniture or seating in a restaurant lead to ADA violations and lawsuits?

The ADA addresses seating

The requirements for appropriate disability accommodations vary depending on the industry. In the hospitality sector, there is a need to ensure that the overall premises are accessible. Entranceways that are wide enough and doors that are accessible for those in wheelchairs are crucial for keeping a business compliant with the ADA.

The actual seating and tables within the restaurant also need to be accessible. Some restaurants, ranging from pubs to fast-service casual dining eateries, have booths and other fixed seating arrangements. The table or chairs attach to the wall or floors, meaning they cannot move.

The restaurant typically needs at least 5% of tables and seating to be movable and accessible. Accessibility for tables means a height between 28 and 34 inches to accommodate those in wheelchairs. There should also be clear floor space around each table designated as accessible, as well as aisles and pathways that are accessible.

The space around a table usually needs to be at least 30 inches laterally and 48 inches when backing up from the table for maneuvering. Aisles and pathways should be at least 36 inches wide. Ensuring that those in wheelchairs can easily get to accessible tables from the door, from the bar and from the bathroom can all limit allegations that a business has failed to properly accommodate those with disabling medical conditions.

Restaurants and bars sometimes face allegations that they do not have adequate accommodations for those with mobility limitations. Learning more about what the ADA requires from businesses with seating, like restaurants, can be crucial to avoid ADA lawsuits. Proactive ADA compliance can potentially save businesses tens of thousands of dollars that could be at risk after customer complaints are filed.