What makes a picnic table ADA compliant?

What makes a picnic table ADA compliant?

For many years, business owners were not held accountable for making their facilities accessible to Americans with disabilities, leaving 26 percent of the adult population uncertain they’d be properly accommodated. However in 1990 George W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act, paving the way for a more equitable experience for all.

As you create a site furnishing plan for your own public facility or business, you may have noticed the “ADA Compliant” indicator on certain appliances or pieces of equipment. Generally speaking, this means that it’s designed to meet the requirements outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act. Specifically however, these design modifications vary depending on the equipment’s intended function. 

Guidelines for ADA Compliant Tables

Small businesses looking for how to meet ADA guidelines will find most of what they need here at ada.gov’s resource for Small Businesses, but this resource outlines the guidelines for fixed tables specifically. This guide indicates that 5% of a facility’s tables (or at least one, if there are less than 20 tables), must meet the accessibility guidelines, “if doing so is readily achievable.” 

Here’s a summary of the ADA compliance guidelines for tables:

  1. The table’s surface must be between 28 inches and 34 inches high.
  2. There must be at least 27 inches of space between the table’s underside and the floor. This is to ensure enough space for a person’s knees.
  3. There must be a clear route to the accessible table. 
  4. The accessible seating area must have a clear floor space of 30 inches by 48 inches. 
  5. This clear floor space must extend 19 inches under the table for a person’s knees.

ADA compliant fixed tables.

When tables are not fixed and have loose chairs, a business can meet these requirements fairly easily by moving chairs out of the way to accommodate wheelchairs, and otherwise making certain that the dimensions above are maintained. 

However fixed tables like picnic tables do not have the convenience of movable chairs. And standard rectangular picnic tables often have metal frames which prevent the table ends from satisfying the ADA compliant guidelines.

Instead, picnic tables are often made ADA compliant by omitting one of the built in benches and leaving that space empty. For instance with this round picnic table, you can see that the fourth bench has been omitted from the table’s design. 

The same strategy has been applied to this square picnic table

This configuration is the most common strategy for achieving ADA compliance with a fixed picnic table, and effectively leaves space for a wheelchair. Remember, in addition to installing these picnic tables, a clear path to these tables must be maintained on the property. Keep this in mind as you fit these ADA compliant picnic tables into your site furnishing plan.


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