221 Assembly Areas
Wheelchair Spaces/Companion Seats. Owners of large assembly areas have historically complained to the Department that the requirement for one percent (1%) of seating to be wheelchair seating is excessive and that wheelchair seats are not being sold. At the same time, advocates have traditionally argued that persons who use wheelchairs will increasingly participate in activities at assembly areas once they become accessible and that at least one percent (1%) of seats should be accessible.
The 1991 Standards, at sections 4.1.3(19)(a) and 4.33.3, require assembly areas to provide wheelchair and companion seats. In assembly areas with a capacity of more than five hundred seats, accessible seating at a ratio of one percent (1%) (plus one seat) of the number of traditional fixed seats must be provided. The 2010 Standards, at section 221.2, require assembly areas with 501 to 5000 seats to provide at least six wheelchair spaces and companion seats plus one additional wheelchair space for each additional 150 seats (or fraction thereof) between 501 through 5000. In assembly areas with more than 5000 seats at least 36 wheelchair spaces and companion seats plus one additional wheelchair space for each 200 seats (or fraction thereof) more than 5000 are required. See sections 221.1 and 221.2 of the 2010 Standards.
Commenters questioned why scoping requirements for large assembly areas are being reduced. During the development of the 2004 ADAAG, industry providers, particularly those representing larger stadium-style assembly areas, supplied data to the Access Board demonstrating the current scoping requirements for large assembly areas often exceed the demand. Based on the data provided to the Access Board, the Department believes the reduced scoping requirements will adequately meet the needs of individuals with disabilities, while balancing concerns of the industry.
Commenters representing assembly areas supported the reduced scoping. One commenter asked that scoping requirements for larger assembly areas be reduced even further. Although the commenter referenced data demonstrating that wheelchair spaces in larger facilities with seating capacities of 70,000 or more may not be used by individuals with disabilities, the data was not based on actual results, but was calculated at least in part based on probability assumptions. The Department is not convinced that further reductions should be made based upon those projections and that further reductions would not substantially limit accessibility at assembly areas for persons who use wheelchairs.
Section 184.108.40.206 of the 2010 Standards clarifies that the scoping requirements for wheelchair spaces and companion seats are to be applied separately to general seating areas and to each luxury box, club box, and suite in arenas, stadiums, and grandstands. In assembly areas other than arenas, stadiums, and grandstands, the scoping requirements will not be applied separately. Thus, in performing arts facilities with tiered boxes designed for spatial and acoustical purposes, the scoping requirement is to be applied to the seats in the tiered boxes. The requisite number of wheelchair spaces and companion seats required in the tiered boxes are to be dispersed among at least twenty percent (20%) of the tiered boxes. For example, if a performing arts facility has 20 tiered boxes with 10 fixed seats in each box, for a total of 200 seats, at least five wheelchair spaces and companion seats must be provided in the boxes, and they must be dispersed among at least four of the 20 boxes.
Commenters raised concerns that the 2010 Standards should clarify requirements for scoping of seating areas and that requiring accessible seating in each luxury box, club box, and suite in arenas, stadiums and grandstands could result in no wheelchair and companion spaces available for individuals with disabilities in the general seating area(s). These comments appear to misunderstand the requirements. The 2010 Standards require each luxury box, club box, and suite in an arena, stadium or grandstand to be accessible and to contain wheelchair spaces and companion seats as required by sections 220.127.116.11, 18.104.22.168 and 221.3. In addition, the remaining seating areas not located in boxes must also contain the number of wheelchair and companion seating locations specified in the 2010 Standards based on the total number of seats in the entire facility excluding luxury boxes, club boxes and suites.
Wheelchair Space Overlap in Assembly Areas. Section 4.33.3 of the 1991 Standards and the 2010 Standards, at sections 402, 403.5.1, 802.1.4, and 802.1.5, require walkways that are part of an accessible route to have a 36-inch minimum clear width. Section 802.1.5 of the 2010 Standards specifically prohibits accessible routes from overlapping wheelchair spaces. This change is consistent with the technical requirements for accessible routes, since the clear width of accessible routes cannot be obstructed by any object. The 2010 Standards also specifically prohibit wheelchair spaces from overlapping circulation paths. An advisory note clarifies that this prohibition applies only to the circulation path width required by applicable building codes and fire and life safety codes since the codes prohibit obstructions in the required width of assembly aisles.
Section 802.1.5 of the 2010 Standards provides that where a main circulation path is located in front of a row of seats that contains a wheelchair space and the circulation path is wider than required by applicable building codes and fire and life safety codes, the wheelchair space may overlap the"extra" circulation path width. Where a main circulation path is located behind a row of seats that contains a wheelchair space and the wheelchair space is entered from the rear, the aisle in front of the row may need to be wider in order not to block the required circulation path to the other seats in the row, or a mid-row opening may need to be provided to access the required circulation path to the other seats.
Line of Sight and Dispersion of Wheelchair Spaces in Assembly Areas. Section 4.33.3 of the 1991 Standards requires wheelchair spaces and companion seats to be an integral part of any fixed seating plan in assembly areas and to provide individuals with disabilities a choice of admission prices and lines of sight comparable to those available to other spectators. Section 4.33.3 also requires wheelchair spaces and companion seats to be dispersed in assembly areas with more than 300 seats. Under the 1991 Standards, sports facilities typically located some wheelchair spaces and companion seats on each accessible level of the facility. In 1994, the Department issued official guidance interpreting the requirement for comparable lines of sight in the 1991 Standards to mean wheelchair spaces and companion seats in sports stadia and arenas must provide patrons with disabilities and their companions with lines of sight over standing spectators to the playing field or performance area, where spectators were expected to stand during events. See"Accessible Stadiums," www.ada.gov/stadium.pdf. The Department also interpreted the section 4.33.3 comparable lines of sight requirement to mean that wheelchair spaces and companion seats in stadium-style movie theaters must provide patrons with disabilities and their companions with viewing angles comparable to those provided to other spectators.
Sections 221.2.3 and 802.2 of the 2010 Standards add specific technical requirements for providing lines of sight over seated and standing spectators and also require wheelchair spaces and companion seats (per section 221.3) to provide individuals with disabilities choices of seating locations and viewing angles that are substantially equivalent to, or better than, the choices of seating locations and viewing angles available to other spectators. This applies to all types of assembly areas, including stadium-style movie theaters, sports arenas, and concert halls. These rules are expected to have minimal impact since they are consistent with the Department´s longstanding interpretation of the 1991 Standards and technical assistance.
Commenters stated that the qualitative viewing angle language contained in section 221.2.3 is not appropriate for an enforceable regulatory standard unless the terms of such language are defined. Other commenters requested definitions for viewing angles, an explanation for precisely how viewing angles are measured, and an explanation for precisely how to evaluate whether one viewing angle is better than another viewing angle. The Department is convinced that the regulatory language in the 2010 Standards is sufficient to provide a performance-based standard for designers, architects, and other professionals to design facilities that provide comparable lines of sight for wheelchair seating in assembly areas, including viewing angles. The Department believes that as a general rule, the vast variety of sizes and configurations in assembly areas requires it to establish a performance standard for designers to adapt to the specific circumstances of the venue that is being designed. The Department has implemented more explicit requirements for stadium-style movie theaters in 28 CFR 36.406(f) and 35.151(g) of the final regulations based on experience and expertise gained after several major enforcement actions.
Another commenter inquired as to what determines whether a choice of seating locations or viewing angles is better than that available to all other spectators. The answer to this question varies according to each assembly area that is being designed, but designers and venue operators understand which seats are better and that understanding routinely drives design choices made to maximize profit and successful operation of the facility, among other things. For example, an"equivalent or better" line of sight in a major league football stadium would be different than for a 350-seat lecture hall. This performance standard is based upon the underlying principle of equal opportunity for a good viewing experience for everyone, including persons with disabilities. The Department believes that for each specific facility that is designed, the owner, operator, and design professionals will be able to distinguish easily between seating locations and the quality of the associated lines of sight from those seating locations in order to decide which ones are better than others. The wheelchair locations do not have to be exclusively among the seats with the very best lines of sight nor may they be exclusively among the seats with the worst lines of sight. Rather, wheelchair seating locations should offer a choice of viewing experiences and be located among the seats where most of the audience chooses to sit.
Section 4.33.3 of the 1991 Standards requires wheelchair spaces and companion seating to be offered at a choice of admission prices, but section 22.214.171.124 of the 2010 Standards no longer requires wheelchair spaces and companion seats to be dispersed based on admission prices. Venue owners and operators commented during the 2004 ADAAG rulemaking process that pricing is not always established at the design phase and may vary from event to event within the same facility, making it difficult to determine where to place wheelchair seats during the design and construction phase. Their concern was that a failure by the venue owner or operator to provide a choice of ticket prices for wheelchair seating as required by the 1991 Standards governing new construction could somehow unfairly subject parties involved in the design and construction to liability unknowingly.
Sections 126.96.36.199 and 221.3 of the 2010 Standards require wheelchair spaces and companion seats to be vertically dispersed at varying distances from the screen, performance area, or playing field. The 2010 Standards, at section 188.8.131.52, also require wheelchair spaces and companion seats to be located in each balcony or mezzanine served by an accessible route. The final regulations at 28 CFR 35.151(g)(1) and 36.406(f)(1) also require assembly areas to locate wheelchair spaces and companion seats at all levels of the facility that include seating and that are served by an accessible route. The Department interprets that requirement to mean that wheelchair and companion seating must be provided in a particular area even if the accessible route may not be the same route that other individuals use to reach their seats. For example, if other patrons reach their seats on the field by an inaccessible route (e.g., by stairs), but there is an accessible route that complies with section 206.3 that could be connected to seats on the field, accessible seats must be placed on the field even if that route is not generally available to the public. The 2010 Standards, at section 184.108.40.206, provide an exception for vertical dispersion in assembly areas with 300 or fewer seats if the wheelchair spaces and companion seats provide viewing angles that are equivalent to, or better than, the average viewing angle provided in the facility.
Section 221.3 of the 2010 Standards requires wheelchair spaces and companion seats to be dispersed horizontally. In addition, 28 CFR 35.151(g)(2) and 36.406(f)(2) require assembly areas that have seating around the field of play or performance area to place wheelchair spaces and companion seating all around that field of play or performance area.
Stadium-Style Movie Theaters
Pursuant to 28 CFR 35.151(g) and 36.406(f), in addition to other obligations, stadium-style movie theaters must meet horizontal and vertical dispersion requirements set forth in sections 220.127.116.11 and 18.104.22.168 of the 2010 Standards; placement of wheelchair and companion seating must be on a riser or cross-aisle in the stadium section of the theater; and placement of such seating must satisfy at least one of the following criteria: (i) it is located within the rear sixty percent (60%) of the seats provided in the auditorium; or (ii) it is located within the area of the auditorium where the vertical viewing angles are between the 40th and 100th percentile of vertical viewing angles for all seats in that theater as ranked from the first row (1st percentile) to the back row (100th percentile). The line-of-sight requirements recognize the importance to the movie-going experience of viewing angles, and the final regulations ensure that movie patrons with disabilities are provided views of the movie screen comparable to other theater patrons. Some commenters supported regulatory language that would require stadium-style theaters to meet standards of accessibility equal to those of non-stadium-style theaters, with larger theaters being required to provide accessible seating locations and viewing angles equal to those offered to individuals without disabilities.
One commenter noted that stadium-style movie theaters, sports arenas, music venues, theaters, and concert halls each pose unique conditions that require separate and specific standards to accommodate patrons with disabilities, and recommended that the Department provide more specific requirements for sports arenas, music venues, theaters, and concert halls. The Department has concluded that the 2010 Standards will provide sufficient flexibility to adapt to the wide variety of assembly venues covered.
Companion Seats. Section 4.33.3 of the 1991 Standards required at least one fixed companion seat to be provided next to each wheelchair space. The 2010 Standards at sections 221.3 and 802.3 permit companion seats to be movable. Several commenters urged the Department to ensure that companion seats are positioned in a manner that places the user at the same shoulder height as their companions using mobility devices. The Department recognizes that some facilities have created problems by locating the wheelchair space and companion seat on different floor elevations (often a difference of one riser height). Section 802.3.1 of the 2010 Standards addresses this problem by requiring the wheelchair space and the companion seat to be on the same floor elevation. This solution should prevent any vertical discrepancies that are not the direct result of differences in the sizes and configurations of wheelchairs.
Designated Aisle Seats. Section 4.1.3(19)(a) of the 1991 Standards requires one percent (1%) of fixed seats in assembly areas to be designated aisle seats with either no armrests or folding or retractable armrests on the aisle side of the seat. The 2010 Standards, at sections 221.4 and 802.4, base the number of required designated aisle seats on the total number of aisle seats, instead of on all of the seats in an assembly area as the 1991 Standards require. At least five percent (5%) of the aisle seats are required to be designated aisle seats and to be located closest to accessible routes. This option will almost always result in fewer aisle seats being designated aisle seats compared to the 1991 Standards. The Department is aware that sports facilities typically locate designated aisle seats on, or as near to, accessible routes as permitted by the configuration of the facility.
One commenter recommended that section 221.4, Designated Aisle Seats, be changed to require that aisle seats be on an accessible route, and be integrated and dispersed throughout an assembly area. Aisle seats, by their nature, typically are located within the general seating area, and integration occurs almost automatically. The issue of dispersing aisle seats or locating them on accessible routes is much more challenging. During the separate rulemaking on the 2004 ADAAG the Access Board specifically requested public comment on the question of whether aisle seats should be required to be located on accessible routes. After reviewing the comments submitted during the 2004 Access Board rulemaking, the Access Board concluded that this could not be done without making significant and costly changes in the design of most assembly areas. However, section 221.4 of the 2004 ADAAG required that designated aisle seats be the aisle seats closest to accessible routes. The Department proposed the same provision and concurs in the Access Board´s conclusion and declines to implement further changes.
Team or Player Seating Areas. Section 22.214.171.124 of the 2010 Standards requires that at least one wheelchair space compliant with section 802.1 be provided in each team or player seating area serving areas of sport activity. For bowling lanes, the requirement for a wheelchair space in player seating areas is limited to lanes required to be accessible.
Lawn Seating. The 1991 Standards, at section 4.1.1(1), require all areas of newly constructed facilities to be accessible, but do not contain a specific scoping requirement for lawn seating in assembly areas. The 2010 Standards, at section 221.5, specifically require lawn seating areas and exterior overflow seating areas without fixed seats to connect to an accessible route.
Aisle Stairs and Ramps in Assembly Areas. Sections 4.1.3 and 4.1.3(4) of the 1991 Standards require that interior and exterior stairs connecting levels that are not connected by an elevator, ramp, or other accessible means of vertical access must comply with the technical requirements for stairs set out in section 4.9 of the 1991 Standards. Section 210.1 of the 2010 Standards requires that stairs that are part of a means of egress shall comply with section 504´s technical requirements for stairs. The 1991 Standards do not contain any exceptions for aisle stairs in assembly areas. Section 210.1, Exception 3 of the 2010 Standards adds a new exception that exempts aisle stairs in assembly areas from section 504´s technical requirements for stairs, including section 505´s technical requirements for handrails.
Section 4.8.5 of the 1991 Standards exempts aisle ramps that are part of an accessible route from providing handrails on the side adjacent to seating. The 2010 Standards, at section 405.1, exempt aisle ramps adjacent to seating in assembly areas and not serving elements required to be on an accessible route, from complying with all of section 405´s technical requirements for ramps. Where aisle ramps in assembly areas serve elements required to be on an accessible route, the 2010 Standards require that the aisle ramps comply with section 405´s technical requirements for ramps. Sections 505.2 and 505.3 of the 2010 Standards provide exceptions for aisle ramp handrails. Section 505.2 states that in assembly areas, a handrail may be provided at either side or within the aisle width when handrails are not provided on both sides of aisle ramps. Section 505.3 states that, in assembly areas, handrails need not be continuous in aisles serving seating.
221.1 General. Assembly areas shall provide wheelchair spaces, companion seats, and designated aisle seats complying with 221 and 802. In addition, lawn seating shall comply with 221.5. [See additional requirements at 28 CFR 35.151(g) and 28 CFR 36.406(f).]
221.2 Wheelchair Spaces. Wheelchair spaces complying with 221.2 shall be provided in assembly areas with fixed seating.
221.2.1 Number and Location. Wheelchair spaces shall be provided complying with 221.2.1.
126.96.36.199 General Seating. Wheelchair spaces complying with 802.1 shall be provided in accordance with Table 188.8.131.52.
Table 221.2.1. Number of Wheelchair Spaces in Assembly Areas
Number of Seats
Minimum Number of Required Wheelchair Spaces
4 to 25
26 to 50
51 to 150
151 to 300
301 to 500
501 to 5000
6, plus 1 for each 150, or fraction thereof, between 501 through 5000
5001 and over
36, plus 1 for each 200, or fraction thereof, over 5000
184.108.40.206 Luxury Boxes, Club Boxes, and Suites in Arenas, Stadiums, and Grandstands. In each luxury box, club box, and suite within arenas, stadiums, and grandstands, wheelchair spaces complying with 802.1 shall be provided in accordance with Table 220.127.116.11.
Advisory 18.104.22.168 Luxury Boxes, Club Boxes, and Suites in Arenas, Stadiums, and Grandstands. The number of wheelchair spaces required in luxury boxes, club boxes, and suites within an arena, stadium, or grandstand is to be calculated box by box and suite by suite.
22.214.171.124 Other Boxes. In boxes other than those required to comply with 126.96.36.199, the total number of wheelchair spaces required shall be determined in accordance with Table 188.8.131.52. Wheelchair spaces shall be located in not less than 20 percent of all boxes provided. Wheelchair spaces shall comply with 802.1.
Advisory 184.108.40.206 Other Boxes. The provision for seating in "other boxes" includes box seating provided in facilities such as performing arts auditoria where tiered boxes are designed for spatial and acoustical purposes. The number of wheelchair spaces required in boxes covered by 220.127.116.11 is calculated based on the total number of seats provided in these other boxes. The resulting number of wheelchair spaces must be located in no fewer than 20% of the boxes covered by this section. For example, a concert hall has 20 boxes, each of which contains 10 seats, totaling 200 seats. In this example, 5 wheelchair spaces would be required, and they must be placed in at least 4 of the boxes. Additionally, because the wheelchair spaces must also meet the dispersion requirements of 221.2.3, the boxes containing these wheelchair spaces cannot all be located in one area unless an exception to the dispersion requirements applies.
18.104.22.168 Team or Player Seating. At least one wheelchair space complying with 802.1 shall be provided in team or player seating areas serving areas of sport activity.
EXCEPTION: Wheelchair spaces shall not be required in team or player seating areas serving bowling lanes not required to comply with 206.2.11.
221.2.2 Integration. Wheelchair spaces shall be an integral part of the seating plan.
Advisory 221.2.2 Integration. The requirement that wheelchair spaces be an "integral part of the seating plan" means that wheelchair spaces must be placed within the footprint of the seating area. Wheelchair spaces cannot be segregated from seating areas. For example, it would be unacceptable to place only the wheelchair spaces, or only the wheelchair spaces and their associated companion seats, outside the seating areas defined by risers in an assembly area.
221.2.3 Lines of Sight and Dispersion. Wheelchair spaces shall provide lines of sight complying with 802.2 and shall comply with 221.2.3. In providing lines of sight, wheelchair spaces shall be dispersed. Wheelchair spaces shall provide spectators with choices of seating locations and viewing angles that are substantially equivalent to, or better than, the choices of seating locations and viewing angles available to all other spectators. When the number of wheelchair spaces required by 221.2.1 has been met, further dispersion shall not be required.
EXCEPTION: Wheelchair spaces in team or player seating areas serving areas of sport activity shall not be required to comply with 221.2.3.
Advisory 221.2.3 Lines of Sight and Dispersion. Consistent with the overall intent of the ADA, individuals who use wheelchairs must be provided equal access so that their experience is substantially equivalent to that of other members of the audience. Thus, while individuals who use wheelchairs need not be provided with the best seats in the house, neither may they be relegated to the worst.
1. Horizontal dispersion shall not be required in assembly areas with 300 or fewer seats if the companion seats required by 221.3 and wheelchair spaces are located within the 2nd or 3rd quartile of the total row length. Intermediate aisles shall be included in determining the total row length. If the row length in the 2nd and 3rd quartile of a row is insufficient to accommodate the required number of companion seats and wheelchair spaces, the additional companion seats and wheelchair spaces shall be permitted to be located in the 1st and 4th quartile of the row.
2. In row seating, two wheelchair spaces shall be permitted to be located side-by-side.
Advisory 22.214.171.124 Horizontal Dispersion. Horizontal dispersion of wheelchair spaces is the placement of spaces in an assembly facility seating area from side-to-side or, in the case of an arena or stadium, around the field of play or performance area.
126.96.36.199 Vertical Dispersion. Wheelchair spaces shall be dispersed vertically at varying distances from the screen, performance area, or playing field. In addition, wheelchair spaces shall be located in each balcony or mezzanine that is located on an accessible route.EXCEPTIONS:
1. Vertical dispersion shall not be required in assembly areas with 300 or fewer seats if the wheelchair spaces provide viewing angles that are equivalent to, or better than, the average viewing angle provided in the facility.
2. In bleachers, wheelchair spaces shall not be required to be provided in rows other than rows at points of entry to bleacher seating.
Advisory 188.8.131.52 Vertical Dispersion. When wheelchair spaces are dispersed vertically in an assembly facility they are placed at different locations within the seating area from front-to-back so that the distance from the screen, stage, playing field, area of sports activity, or other focal point is varied among wheelchair spaces.
Advisory 184.108.40.206 Vertical Dispersion Exception 2. Points of entry to bleacher seating may include, but are not limited to, cross aisles, concourses, vomitories, and entrance ramps and stairs. Vertical, center, or side aisles adjoining bleacher seating that are stepped or tiered are not considered entry points.
221.3 Companion Seats. At least one companion seat complying with 802.3 shall be provided for each wheelchair space required by 221.2.1.
221.4 Designated Aisle Seats. At least 5 percent of the total number of aisle seats provided shall comply with 802.4 and shall be the aisle seats located closest to accessible routes.
EXCEPTION: Team or player seating areas serving areas of sport activity shall not be required to comply with 221.4.
Advisory 221.4 Designated Aisle Seats. When selecting which aisle seats will meet the requirements of 802.4, those aisle seats which are closest to, not necessarily on, accessible routes must be selected first. For example, an assembly area has two aisles (A and B) serving seating areas with an accessible route connecting to the top and bottom of Aisle A only. The aisle seats chosen to meet 802.4 must be those at the top and bottom of Aisle A, working toward the middle. Only when all seats on Aisle A would not meet the five percent minimum would seats on Aisle B be designated.
221.5 Lawn Seating. Lawn seating areas and exterior overflow seating areas, where fixed seats are not provided, shall connect to an accessible route.