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Accessibility Rules for Counters in California: What Every Business Should Know

Compliance with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the California Building Code (CBC) requires that businesses not only make facilities accessible from the exterior, but that they ensure that interior spaces are accessible to disabled persons. This requires creating spaces to facilitate the exchange of goods and money, and to allow disabled persons to maneuver about to purchase goods and services offered by the business. According to the ADA, sales and service countersmust be made accessible when doing so is readily achievable. The rules for counter accessibility for sales and service counters are more fully described in the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. Note that California has more stringent rules when it comes to counters.

Counter height

For transaction counters that provide sales or services such as ticketing transaction counters or hotel and motel registration, some portion of the counter should be at least 36 inches long and no more than 36 inches above the floor. The CBC requires counters to be 34 inches maximum above the finished floor. At this height, the counter is accessible for disabled persons to complete transactions. As an alternative, a business may in some circumstances provide a second counter in the same area or make a folding shelf available.

Accessible space near service counters

Sales and service counters must be situated with sufficient floor space to allow a customer using a wheelchair to access the counter. The floor area must be clear of obstacles and measure at least 30 inches by 48 inches. The space may be parallel or perpendicular to the counter. The accessible space should be located on an accessible route which connects to the accessible entrance through which customers enter the facility. The area should also be accessible to the other sections in the store where merchandise is sold. As a general rule, interior routes must be 36 inches minimum in width with some aisles required to be 44 inches wide.

Checkout aisles

Checkout aisles in supermarkets and similar businesses have specific standards for accessibility for customers using a wheelchair. The counter in a check-out aisle cannot exceed 38 inches in height above the finish floor. The maximum height extends to 40 inches if there is a lip between the counter and checkout aisle. An accessible checkout aisle is required to be a minimum of 36 inches wide. An accessible aisle should be identified by a sign that includes the international symbol of accessibility.  In determining how many accessible aisles a business must establish, it must take into account how many total aisles exist in the facility. At least two accessible aisles should be provided if the business has more than five checkout aisles.

If you have questions or concerns about whether your business is in compliance with the ADA and the California Building Code, contact California ADA attorney and certified accessibility specialist (CASp) Cris Vaughan for assistance. To discuss your concerns, please call 310.426.2836 in Los Angeles, 415.492.2854 in San Francisco Bay Area and 916.660.9401 in Sacramento.

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