What Are the ADA Requirements for Commercial Buildings?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in public areas, including jobs, schools, transportation, and public places open to the general public. By law, people with disabilities should have the same rights as everyone else.

As stated on the law’s Title III, under Public Accommodations, public places shouldn’t be discriminatory against people with disabilities. The establishments include hotels, restaurants, retail merchants, doctor’s offices, golf courses, private schools, daycare centers, health clubs, sports stadiums, and movie theaters. The section also requires all public spaces to make “reasonable modifications” to their usual ways of doing things when serving people with disabilities—including a change in a commercial building’s standards.

Therefore, for people thinking of changing their office spaces, it’s important to familiarize themselves with the ADA compliance requirements to ensure that everyone uses their facilities, despite the physical limitations. But what are the ADA’s requirements for public spaces? Here are some of them.


The first requirement is simple. It only aims to make public spaces more accessible for people with disabilities. For example, installing accessible hardware on doors, providing parking close to the entrance, and adjusting water fountains are few examples of the requirements.

Meanwhile, it’s also vital for commercial buildings to provide accessible comfort rooms, especially for people in wheelchairs. Every flooring type should fit each client, with or without disability. Moreover, you must install railings along ramps and staircases to act as support. You must rearrange all pieces of furniture to reduce barriers to service as well.

Update For Existing Buildings

Meanwhile, for buildings erected before the ADA bill became a law in 1990, a retrofitting and remodeling project should be put in place to conform to the ADA’s requirements. Since buildings from the 1990s face a different set of problems in architectural design, it’s vital to have them adjust to the law by simply making the necessary changes and adjustments to old buildings.

Workplace Adjustments

Workplaces are also subject to the ADA’s requirements. However, the changes needed in an office may be different from the usual changes or recommendations in a public commercial building. For example, offices should expand their office doors by at least 32 inches wide to make way for individuals to pass through. The entries must also accommodate mobility devices like wheelchairs and scooters.

Next, heavy doors needing more than 5 lbs of force should provide additional support, such as an accessible push-button for opening or closing. Meanwhile, conference tables or desks should be at least 27 inches in height to allow room for mobility devices. Finally, workplaces should see that people with disabilities, be it their employee or client, must always perform a seamless transaction in the work building.

Restroom Adjustments

Restrooms in commercial buildings should follow the rules as well. For toilets, the minimum toilet seat height should be between 17 to 19 inches. Meanwhile, the seat should be within 16 and 18 inches from the sidewall. For sinks, the standard height should be max 34 inches from the floor while maintaining a 29-inch knee clearance. 

In addition, the comfort room stalls should be at least 60 inches around the sidewall and 56 inches from the end wall, letting a wheelchair turn without struggle. Next, urinals should be the wall-hung type with at least 17 to 19 inches in height from the floor. Of course, grab bars are vital—at least 36 inches long on the rear wall or 42 inches long if mounted from the sidewall. They should also be at least 33 to 36 inches from the floor and withstand 250 pounds of pressure.


Commercial buildings that fail to follow the specifications provided by the ADA may face severe financial penalties. The minimum fine can start at $55,000 to $75,000 for first-time violators. Meanwhile, a second violation is equal to $100,000 to $150,000 in fines. Of course, failure to comply may also result in liability issues which leads to costly litigation. Therefore, to avoid embroilment into a legal battle, it’s best to follow the provided guidelines to ensure everyone’s peace of mind and safety.

All Things Inspector is an online resource for ADA inspection tools. Our goal is to provide accurate and factual information in addition to providing an ada compliance checklist, we hope to help others bridge the gap by following a few requirements. We’ve discussed ADA compliance in the past, and we’d love for people to learn the importance of inclusion. Read more about it on our website today.

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Merle Parkins

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