Dining Room Furniture - ADA Restaurant Requirements

ADA-Compliant Dining Room

After you find the right space for your restaurant, there’s a lot to think about besides curating a menu and hiring the right staff, including restaurant furniture for the dining room and the overall layout and design of the space. You want everything to be perfect right down to meeting all city, state, and federal requirements. Although meeting those requirements can be a test on your patience, one of the most confusing and important to get right is ADA compliance for restaurants.

The U.S. Justice Department adopted new Americans with Disabilities (ADA) guidelines in 2010 to help smooth out that process. The 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design1 represent the first update to the regulations since they were put into force in 1991. The amendments matched the standards with international building codes, which businesses in many areas are mandated to follow, anyway. The guidelines cover two topics that are of particular interest to restaurant operators: dining room layouts and commercial dining furniture specifications. Here are several of the ADA requirements for restaurants to consider before you order your dining furniture.

Dining Areas

While the original standards required a minimum of 5 percent of restaurant tables be accessible to patrons with disabilities, the 2010 updates expanded this minimum to cover all eating surfaces (Section 226.1). That includes areas like counter service, high-top tables, and bars. The accessible seating must be distributed throughout the dining area, rather than grouped in one area (Section 226.2). Be sure to keep this in mind when designing the layout of your restaurant, since the entire public space needs to be considered under the new requirements.

Dining Surfaces

Restaurant table and counter height requirements haven’t changed under the 2010 ADA Guidelines. Dining tables must be between 28- to 34-inches high to accommodate guests in wheelchairs (Section 902.3), and the distance between the floor and the table's frame must be no less than 27 inches (Section 306.3.4). Further, 30 inches of clearance is required between the legs of the table. Be sure to ask about these dimensions when shopping for your dining room’s tables if they aren’t noted in the commercial furniture's specs.


Chairs and bar stools have no specifications under the ADA requirements for restaurants. However, under the new guidelines, bench seats are required to be at least 42 inches long (Section 903.3). The required depth of such seating remains the same, between 20 and 24 inches, with back supports required to be at least 42 inches in length, and should match the length of the seat. In addition, the back support needs to be a minimum of 2 inches above the seat cushion and extend above the seat cushion at least 18 inches. It must also be set back from the cushion at least 2.5 inches (Section 903.4). Most bench seating currently available should already meet ADA compliance for restaurants, but it’s always a good idea to double check before ordering.

As you determine how many tables to put in your dining room, be aware that the required spacing between seats and tables has been increased since the 1991 ADA Standards. The updated rules require walkways between tables and seats to be a minimum of 36 inches wide. (Section 403.5.1)

Additional Accessibility Considerations

Another new consideration is the lighting in your restaurant, specifically the table lighting. With more than 70 million baby boomers turning 65 by 2030, it’s very likely the proportion of your customer base that needs special considerations will only increase. That's why offering low-glare lighting for customers to read your menu by just makes sense and could be a key to attracting and keeping this huge demographic as clients.

While the restroom is not part of the dining room, it is also frequented by customers and is another area of focus for ADA accessibility, with several changes for this area in the 2010 update. Sections 603 and 604 of the standards explain how to ensure your restroom is accessible to customers and employees with disabilities, in regards to the fixtures and layout. These regulations cover a range of topics, including the installation of grab bars, the direction that doors open, and the height and dimensions of fixtures like toilets, toilet paper dispensers, mirrors, and counters.

Knowing the ADA restaurant requirements can make finding and selecting commercial furniture and equipment easier. To help make complying with these regulations easier, the U.S. Department of Justice offers a small business primer2 to help operators understand the often-dense text of the ADA.

Still not sure what furniture to order? KaTom can help. Just contact one of our helpful customer service representatives at 1-800-541-8683 or by email at info@katom.com.


  1. 2010 ADA Standards. Department of Justice. Accessed May 2016.
  2. ADA Update: A Primer for Small Businesses. Department of Justice. Accessed May 2016.