ADA Compliant Benches – Here’s What You Need to Know

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It is important to know all ADA requirements for outdoor benches to ensure compliance, as well as to avoid alienating your customers. Section 903 of the ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities were created so that people in wheelchairs can easily transfer to benches in specific settings. Bench requirements are mandated in certain facilities, rooms and elements, including Saunas and Steam Rooms, Fitting and Locker Rooms, Dressing, Holding Cells and Housing Cells, and Courtrooms.

There are different guidelines for outdoor benches, which tends to create a good deal of confusion. It is not uncommon for businesses to implement outdoor benches that meet Section 903 standards, but this is not recommended for many reasons. We are here to help clear up the confusion and ensure your project meets all ADA guidelines. Learn more

ADA Compliant Outdoor Benches

It’s important to note that Section 903 only applies to certain settings, such as gyms, hospitals, and dressing rooms. It does not apply to outdoor benches. The only mention of ADA guidelines for outdoor benches is found in “The Revised Draft Guidelines for Accessible Public Rights-of-Way” beneath the section titled “Text of the Draft Guidelines,” Chapter R3: Technical Provisions, R307.6.3.2:

“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 (17in) minimum and 49cm (19in) maximum above the ground or floor space.” (

Instead of following the guidelines set forth by Section 903, the best way to make outdoor benches accessible to everyone is by following these tips:

  • Bench seat height should measure 17’ to 19’ above ground or floor space
  • The ground beneath benches should be clear, solid and stable and measure a minimum of 30’ x 48’.
  • Seat backs should extend the full length of the bench
  • Don’t forget to include armrests on benches. As a rule of thumb, one to two out of every five benches should have armrests.
  • Create flexible spaces that allow plenty of room for wheelchairs to pull up beside benches and tables and interact without transferring out of their chair. This requires flat and stable ground surfaces all around benches so that wheelchairs can easily maneuver and park in the area.
  • Make sure there is ample space to add seating around benches, for instance face groups of chairs at the ends of benches parallel to the short axis of the bench.
  • For picnic tables, leave one seat removed or make one side of the bench shorter than the other side so that it is easy for wheelchairs to pull up and access the table. In addition, make sure there is enough toe and knee clearance beneath the table. As a rule of thumb, shoot for 27’ high, 30’ wide, and 19’ deep. This should provide ample space for comfort, accessibility, and maneuverability.
  • Benches should be purchased in regard to your target audience – do you cater to a lot of elderly people? If yes, benches with a high back that offer a good deal of support are ideal. What about families with young children? Always consider the audience you are buying for when purchasing benches.

Section 903 Does Not Apply to Outdoor Benches, and For Good Reason

Applying the same standards outlined in Section 903 to outdoor benches is almost always considered unnecessary. It is without benefit to people in wheelchairs and inconvenient for people who are not in wheelchairs. That’s because people in wheelchairs typically do not transfer to outdoor benches. Instead, they pull up next to benches or tables and join in on the action from the comfort of their wheelchair.

By adding fixed or dimensionally restricted benches to landscaping, you end up isolating people in wheelchairs. In addition, benches with high and deep seats that lack side arms are not functional for people with other disabilities or special needs. If someone requires back support, it is impossible to get it from a seat that is so deep and high it prevents the knees from bending. Section 903 details adding benches with no arm rests, this is also counterproductive in outdoor settings. People with mobility issues, small children, and the elderly often need side arms to get up and down.

Purchase ADA Compliant Benches from TerraCast Products

TerraCast offers a wide range of site furnishings including commercial benches that can be made to meet all ADA requirements. We understand the importance of following all ADA requirements when landscaping and designing your facility, this includes ADA compliance for benches. Learn more about our ADA compliant benches and site furnishings.