As of December 2011 there are still no formal standards for exterior benches that are accessible to people with disabilities. The Access-Board has Revised Draft Guidelines – see links and text below.
Specifications for benches that are included in standards for dressing-room facilities are not directly applicable to the design of streetscape benches. Pedestrians with disabilities will appreciate walkway seating with a fairly high seat, a shallow front-to-back dimension, a supportive back, and an armrest for making the transition between standing and sitting. Although basic accessibility scoping might suggest that only one bench in a grouping needs to meet these recommendations, design consistency and volume-purchasing discounts encourage standardization.
Disabled and elderly pedestrians have expressed strong support for requiring benches at regular intervals along public streets, especially where sidewalks slope steeply. A level area should be provided for the bench.
R307.6.3.1 Clear Space for Wheelchairs at Benches. Where benches without tables are provided at a single location, at least 50 percent, but no fewer than one, shall provide clear space complying with R402 positioned at the end of the bench seat and located for shoulder-to-shoulder seating.
R307.6.3.2 Benches. Where benches without tables are provided at a single location, at least 50 percent, but no fewer than one, shall have a seat height at the front edge of 43 cm (17 in) minimum and 49 cm (19 in) maximum above the ground or floor space.
Basically these state that the seat height should be between 17” and 19” above grade and that a back and arms are desirable (but not required) to aid sitting down and standing up.
Most FairWeather benches either comply or can be easily modified to comply with the proposed guidelines.
The specifications that are most frequently (and incorrectly) referenced for ADA benches are listed in the ADA Standards for Accessible Design under Chapter 9 paragraph 903:
- 42” Minimum length
- 17 – 19” seat height
- 20 – 24” deep seat
- 2” maximum clear distance between seat and back
These rules apply to very limited interior applications specifically:
- saunas and steam rooms,
- dressing, fitting and locker rooms
- Holding cells and housing cells
The standards are NOT applicable to exterior and streetscape benches.
To verify this information or for further assistance on ADA regulations, you may contact the Access Board by email at TA@access-board.gov or by phone at 800-872-2253 (voice) or 800-993-2822 (TTY).