What Are the ADA Building Codes in California?


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) instituted regulations to assist persons with physical challenges. The focus of this act is to make it as easy as possible for those who have sight and hearing deficiencies or who are confined to a wheelchair to have access to the same public and private facilities as those without these challenges. California adopted ADA building codes to meet these requirements.

ADA Accessibility in Building Codes

  • The California Division of the State Architect (DSA) provides what is known as the Access Compliance Reference Manual. This manual combines California Code Regulations, DSA interpretations of the regulations, DSA policies and checklists, and all state statutes related to ADA accessibility regulations. Title XXIV of the Code Regulations is the California Building Standards Code, which contains all regulations pertaining to building design and construction. DSA checklists, policies, and interpretations provide specific applications of ADA building codes related to accessibility and compliance. The intent of the manual, according to the DSA website, is to clarify the regulations governing accessibility in public and private buildings and facilities including schools, entertainment venues, commercial business properties, elevators and bathrooms, and other public areas.

Wheelchair Regulations

  • The removal of barriers in public facilities is addressed by Title III, Section 36.304 of the ADA and is adopted in California building code regulations. Areas covered under this section include the cutting of curbs and sidewalks for wheelchair access, widening doors and installing proper door handles, and designating parking spaces. Tables, chairs, telephone booths, vending machines, and display racks must be positioned to provide reasonable access by wheelchair. Altering restroom facilities to facilitate wheelchair maneuverability is also included in this section. Grab bars are required in restroom stalls along the back and side walls, as are raised toilet seats. Paper towel and toilet paper dispensers must be designed and located so that those confined to a wheelchair can reach them, and hot water plumbing lines under bathroom sinks must be insulated to prevent burning when being used.

Vision and Hearing Impairment Regulations

  • ADA regulations concerning those with vision and hearing disabilities are covered in the California Building Standards Code (BSC). These codes are governed overall by the U.S. Department of Justice, which provides informational guidelines to assist businesses in complying with ADA regulations. One FAQ section on its website discusses service animals in public places. Privately owned businesses such as hotels, restaurants, theaters and sports facilities must allow service animals wherever the general public has access. This includes guide dogs for visually impaired persons and dogs that alert hearing-impaired individuals to important sounds. Posting a “no pets” sign does not preclude compliance with these ADA regulations. The only cases when a service animal may be barred from entering a place of business are if the animal’s behavior poses a threat to the well-being of any other person in the area, or if the behavior disrupts the normal practice of the business, such as a service dog barking in a movie theater.

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