Ada Building Specifications

The ADAAG outlines guidelines for reserved parking.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990, all builders of public facilities must comply with certain construction specifications to allow individuals with disabilities access to the buildings. The ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities is the complete list of rules and regulations that builders must follow when designing and building construction projects. The list includes everything from parking to stairs and ramps to interior specifications, including bathrooms and other common areas.

Exterior Specifications

Sections 4.1 to 4.14 of the ADAAG outline the requirements for the exterior of the building. Included in this part of the document are measurements for entryways to accommodate wheelchairs, parking space requirements and power-operated doors. For instance, in a parking lot, there must be one designated handicapped space for every 25 regular parking spaces.

At least half of all the public entrances to the building must meet accessibility requirements. If the number of emergency exits is more than half the number of public entrances, there must be an equal number of accessible entrances as exits. For example, if a building has six public entrances planned plus four fire exits, four of the public entrances must be handicapped accessible.

If the exterior of the building includes a stairway, it must also include handicapped-accessible ramps. These ramps have specific incline requirements, as well as specifications to ensure the ramps are safe and resistant to slips and sliding.

Interior Specifications

Sections 4.10 to 4.37 cover the interior specifications for ADA-compliant building. These guidelines outline everything from elevators to drinking fountains. In a multistory building, for instance, elevators must provide access to each of the building’s levels. The ADA does not require buildings of fewer than three stories to have elevators, with the exception of health care buildings, shopping malls and transportation facilities.

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These ADAAG sections also set the code for widths of hallways, doorways and common areas. This part of the document includes information specifically for hotels, spas and offices.


Within the ADA codes are several exemptions for specific types of facilities. For instance, certain amusement park rides do not have to be ADA compliant. Residential construction requirements are sometimes less stringent than commercial requirements. If compliance with certain requirements would damage the integrity or value of a historic building, alternative requirements are listed in Summary Sheet J of the ADAAG, “Accessible Buildings — Historic Preservation.”