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Updated on July 14, 2011


ADA: Americans with Disabilities Act or the ADA Standards for Disability Design (July 1, 1994)

CAB: California Architects Board

CBC: California Building Code (Code)

DSA: California Division of the State Architect

USDOJ: United States Department of Justice

This Hub is about the accessibility requirements of the California Building Code. It does not cover every detail. There are many specialized areas that should be analyzed when you have the need to apply them. Please note that the CBC is not completely aligned with the ADA. A side-by-side comparison is provided by USDOJ. ____________________________________________________________


  1. Facilities Required to be Accessible
  2. Requirements for Existing Facilities
  3. Requirements for New Construction
  4. Accessible Route of Travel
  5. Site Accessibility
  6. Entrances, Exits, and Paths of Travel
  7. Components of Accessibility
  8. Sanitary Facilities
  9. Accessible Fixtures
  10. Accessible Bathroom Accessories
  11. Fire Detection and Alarm Systems
  12. Specialized Accessibility Rules Based on Occupancy
  13. Useful Links
  15. Latest News


The CBC essentially requires all new construction to be accessible, with the exception of private residences.

Publicly-funded buildings: any project which uses funds provided by any governmental entity, regardless of the source of those funds.

Public use: publicly-owned and privately-owned facilities used by the general public in the broadest possible way.

Religious Entities and Private Clubs: While the ADA generally exempts facilities operated by religious entities and private clubs, they are not exempt under California law. These buildings are treated no differently than any other under California access law.

Temporary Facilities: Access requirements apply to buildings and facilities intended for public use that are not of permanent construction.



The CBC vs the ADA:

The CBC does not require existing facilities to be made accessible until they are modified; however, the ADA does require readily-achievable barrier removal. Readily achievable is defined as "easily accomplished and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense."

ADA priorities for readily-achievable measures:

1) measures to provide access from public sidewalks, parking, or public transportation. These measures include, for example, installing an entrance ramp, widening entrances, and providing accessible parking spaces.

2) measures to provide access to those areas where goods and services are made available to the public. Examples include adjusting the layout of display racks, rearranging tables, providing signage in braille and raised characters, widening doors, providing visual alarms, and installing ramps.

3) measures to provide access to restroom facilities including removal of obstructing furniture or vending machines, widening of doors, installation of ramps, providing accessible signage, widening of toilet stalls, and installation of grab bars.

4) a public accommodation should take any other measures necessary to provide access to the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation.

The CBC & existing facilities:

When alterations, structural repairs or additions are made, the area of work must comply with of the accessibility requirements for new construction. In addition to the area of work, the following must also meet current accessibility standards:

  • A primary entrance to the facility.
  • The primary path of travel to the area of work
  • The sanitary facilities, drinking fountains, signs and public telephones serving the area of work.

Post-disaster reconstruction: The USDOJ has determined that buildings rebuilt after a fire are considered reconstruction and must be fully accessible. 

A Change of Occupancy: A change of occupancy(as defined by the CBC) is considered an alteration and therefore triggers accessibility as required for alterations.

Construction cost: When the total construction cost of alterations, structural repairs or additions does not exceed the currently-specified valuation threshold, and the enforcing agency finds that compliance would create an unreasonable hardship, compliance shall be limited to the actual work of the project. The 2011 threshold is $132,536.28. An unreasonable hardship exists where the cost of providing an accessible entrance, path of travel, sanitary facilities, public phones and drinking fountains exceeds 20% of the cost of the project without these features. When it is determined that an unreasonable hardship exists, access features must be provided until the cost of providing those features reaches the 20% hardship threshold. Hardship access features shall be provided in the following order of priority: 1) An accessible entrance 2) An accessible route to the altered area 3) At least one accessible restroom for each sex 4) Accessible telephones 5) Accessible drinking fountains 6) Other features

You may not take advantage of the construction cost exception by breaking a project into smaller jobs. To prevent this behavior, the total cost of all projects within an area (or all areas served by the same path of travel) during the previous 3-year period will be considered if the previous projects used the cost exception to obtain an unreasonable hardship determination.

Multi-story buildings: Alteration projects involving certain existing buildings and facilities built without elevators may take advantage of the 20% accessibility feature threshold for areas above and below the ground floor even if the value of the project exceeds the Construction Cost valuation threshold previously described. This exception applies to the following privately-funded buildings: 1)Office buildings and passenger vehicle service stations of three stories or more and 3,000 or more square feet per floor. 2)Offices of physicians and surgeons. 3)Shopping centers. 4)Other buildings and facilities three stories or more and 3,000 or more square feet per floor if a reasonable portion of services sought and used by the public is available on the accessible level.

This exception does not impact the obligation to comply with the other accessibility requirements in the code. Floors above or below the accessible ground floor must meet access requirements except for elevator service. If toilet or bathing facilities are provided on a level not served by an elevator, then toilet or bathing facilities must be provided on the accessible ground floor.

Accessibility Alterations: Alterations, repairs or additions performed to improve access by meeting accessibility requirements do not trigger improvements beyond the scope of the proposed work.

See CBC 1134B.2 for a list.

Miscellaneous Work: Certain projects not effecting access do not trigger requirements to improve accessibility of the facility. Examples include HVAC upgrades, roofing, electrical work not involving switches and receptacles, cosmetic work. If any of this work has associated accessibility requirements, the work must meet those requirements. For example, new flooring must comply with applicable code provisions.

Toilet Rooms: When it is not technically feasible to make existing toilet rooms code compliant, or to provide separate code-compliant toilet rooms for each sex, providing at least one unisex toilet room per altered floor is permitted. Unisex toilet rooms provided per this exception must be located in the same area as existing toilet rooms.

Historical Buildings: Qualified historical buildings may take advantage of a various exceptions and alternate means of accessibility. These provisions are found in the State Historical Building Code.



DIMENSIONS and TOLERANCES: If not stated as "maximum" or "minimum", dimensions are absolute. Conventional industry tolerances apply except when requirements are stated as an allowable range. For example, handrails required to be 34" to 38" above the floor cannot be less than the minimum or greater than the maximum by any amount whatsoever.

ACCESSIBLE ROUTE of TRAVEL: All areas must be accessible. Multistory facilities must provide ramp or elevator access to each level, including mezzanines.


  1. Areas not usually occupied such as spaces accessed only by ladders, catwalks, crawl spaces, freight elevators, and areas accessed only for repair or maintenance.
  2. Privately funded multistory office buildings (other than health care providers) and passenger vehicle service stations less than three stories high or less than 3,000 square feet on any floor.
  3. See code for additional multistory exceptions.

As with existing buildings, the elevator exception does not limit the obligation to comply with the other accessibility requirements in the code. Floors above or below the accessible ground floor must meet access requirements except for elevator service. If toilet or bathing facilities are provided on a level not served by an elevator, then toilet or bathing facilities must be provided on the accessible ground floor. Even if not required, if a passenger elevator is provided, it must meet all access requirements and shall serve each level in the building. An elevator that provides service from a garage to only one level is not required to serve other levels.



An accessible route of travel shall be provided to all portions of the building and from the public way to an accessible entrance. To the extent feasible, the route should coincide with the route typically used by the general public. Except within an individual dwelling unit, an accessible route of travel shall not pass through kitchens, storage rooms, restrooms, closets or other spaces used for similar purposes. This should obviously not be construed to mean that those areas should not be accessible, rather, the primary path to other areas should not require passage through the spaces named above. At least one route shall be provided from accessible parking and public streets or sidewalks to the accessible building entrance. At least one accessible route shall connect all accessible facilities & spaces on the same site. Where more than one route of travel is provided, all routes shall be accessible. Exception: Where an elevator is provided for vertical access, only one elevator is required. If more than one is provided, all elevators must be accessible.



General: Access shall be provided to all entrances and exterior ground floor exits. Exceptions: Where the enforcing agency determines that compliance would create an unreasonable hardship because of topography, natural barriers, etc., an exception may be granted when equivalent facilitation is provided.

Signs: International Symbol of Accessibility shall be displayed per 1127B.3.

Curb ramps: shall be provided at each corner of street intersections and where a pedestrian way crosses a curb. Built-up curb ramps shall be located so that they do not project into vehicular traffic lanes. Minimum width shall be 48". Slope shall not exceed 1 in 12 (8.33%). A 48" deep level landing shall be provided at top of ramp. Landing width shall be no less than ramp width.

Accessible Parking: Each lot or parking structure where parking is provided for the public have accessible parking. When serving a particular building, accessible parking spaces shall be located on the shortest accessible route of travel to an accessible entrance. When not serving a particular building, accessible parking shall be located on the shortest accessible route of travel to an accessible pedestrian entrance of the parking facility. See Table 11B-6 for required quantities. The number of required spaces is calculated for individual lots or parking structures, not the aggregate of all lots and structures on a site. This does not preclude the locating of all required spaces in lots or structures closer to facility entrances if doing so provides equal or greater access. Some medical and other facilities that provide services to people with mobility impairments require a higher percentage of accessible spaces. Examples of non-medical facilities subject to these requirements are vocational rehab centers and prosthetic sales. See code for details.

Parking spaces: The basic dimensions are 9’ wide by 18’ deep. Single spaces must have a 5’ wide aisle adjacent to the space on the passenger side. Pairs of spaces may share an aisle. Van-accessible spaces must have an 8’ wide aisle on the passenger side. An 8’ wide aisle may be shared by two accessible spaces, but only the space with the aisle on the passenger side will be considered van-accessible. See Code and Figure 11B-18 for complete details.

Note: The CBC does not specify a particular color for striping.

Spaces shall not be located where the accessible route from the vehicle to facilities served by the space require a person with disabilities to move behind parked cars other than their own. Ramps shall not encroach into an accessible parking space or the adjacent access aisle.

Signage and identification: Accessible spaces, lots and parking structures shall be identified with signage and pavement markings as required by the code.

Parking structures: Minimum vertical clearance from all entrances, to all accessible parking spaces, and through structure to exit shall be 98". This applies to all accessible spaces whether van-accessible or not.

Valet parking: Valet parking does not alter the requirement to provide accessible parking. Valet parking facilities shall have a passenger loading zone.

Passenger loading zones shall be located on an accessible route of travel. Passenger loading zones shall have an access aisle at least 60" wide and 20’ long adjacent and parallel to the vehicle pull-up space. The minimum vertical clearance of loading zone and vehicular access to and from loading zone shall be 114".



Note: Chapter 11 does not take the place of Chapter 10. It may supersede or supplement some requirements where access is provided or required.


All entrances and exterior ground floor exit doors shall be accessible. Entrances shall be connected by an accessible route to public transportation stops, accessible parking, passenger loading zones and public streets or sidewalks if available. Entrances shall be connected by an accessible route to all accessible spaces or elements within the building or facility. Exceptions:

  1. Exterior ground floor exits serving smoke-proof enclosures, stairwells and exit doors servicing stairs only.
  2. Exits in excess of those required by Chapter 10, and which are more than 24" above grade. Such doors shall have signs warning that they are not accessible.

Doors: Every required exit door shall be no less than 36" x 6’-8" and, when open 90°, shall provide a clear opening of no less than 32" from face of door to opposite stop. Exit doors shall be capable of opening at least 90°. Exception: Doors not requiring full passage may have a minimum clear opening of 20". When pairs of doors are used, at least one operable leaf shall meet the the requirements above. Refer to CBC & ADA Standards for sliding doors.

Recessed doormats: Recessed doormats shall be properly anchored.

Automatic and power-assisted doors: When used, automatic and power-assisted doors shall comply with Section 1133B.2.3.2.

Thresholds; The floor or landing shall not be more than 1/2" lower than the threshold of the doorway. See "Changes in Level".

Maneuvering clearances at doors: Doors must have level and clear landings on each side. The sizes and dimensions depend on door location, approach and hardware. Landing depth shall be 60" minimum on pull side and 48" minimum on push side. "Level" means less than 2% slope.  Exterior landings should be designed with a slight slope for drainage. 

Exception: Pull side may be 44" minimum when:

  1. Approach is from latch side and door has no closer.
  2. Approach is from either side and door has neither a latch nor a closer.

Landing must be full width of door and extend a minimum of 24" beyond strike at exterior doors and 18" beyond strike at interior doors.

See Figure 11B-26 for minimum maneuvering clearances at doors.

See Figures 11B-30 & 31 for vestibule doors.

See Figure 11B-33 for doors in recesses or alcoves.

Door opening force: See Section 1133B.2.5.

Door hardware: See Sections 1133B.2.5.1 & 1133B.2.5.2.

Note that the State Fire Marshal requires lever hardware handles to curve and return to the door to prevent the catching of clothes.

Door surface: The bottom 10" of all doors (except automatic and sliding) shall have a smooth, uninterrupted surface on the push side.

Gates: Gates shall meet all applicable door requirements.

Turnstiles, rails and pedestrian controls: See section 1133B.2.3.4.

Corridors, Hallways, and Exterior Exit Balconies

Note: The current code does not define a hallway. When "hallway" is used, assume that it refers to a passage that is not considered a corridor.

Corridor and hallway widths: Corridors and hallways serving occupant loads of 10 or more shall be 44" wide minimum. Corridors and hallways serving occupant loads of less than 10 shall be 36" wide minimum. Corridors and hallways exceeding 200’ shall have a minimum clear width of 60" or be provided with passing areas at least 60" x 60" at intervals not exceeding 200’. Intersections are acceptable passing areas.


Signage: Tactile signs identifying the floor level shall be located at each floor level landing in all enclosed stairways of buildings two or more stories in height. Sign at exit discharge level shall include a raised five pointed star.

Striping for the visually impaired: Interior stairs shall have the upper approach and lower tread marked by a stripe. Exterior stairs shall have the upper approach and all treads marked by a visually contrasting stripe. The stripe shall be a between 2" and 4" wide placed parallel to, and not more than 1" from, the nose of the step or upper approach. The stripe shall extend the full width of the step or upper approach and shall be at least as slip-resistant as the other treads. Painted stripes are acceptable.

Treads: Tread depth shall be no less than 11" and be uniform within a flight. Note that this overrides Chapter 10. Winding stairs may be used but the tread shall not be less than 11" at any point. Tread surfaces shall be slip resistant, not allow the accumulation of water, and have smooth, rounded or beveled exposed edges.

Risers: Riser height shall be 7" maximum and 4" minimum and be uniform within a flight. Risers shall be vertical, or sloped from the underside of the leading edge of the tread above at an angle not more than 30° from vertical. Open risers are not permitted.

Nosing: The radius or bevel face of nosings shall be no more than 1/2". Nosings shall not project more than 1-1/4" past the face of the riser below. Projecting nosings shall have the underside of the leading edge angled not more than 30° from vertical.

Handrails: Stairways shall have continuous handrails on both sides. The top of handrail gripping surface shall be mounted between 34" and 38" above the tread nosing. Handrails shall extend horizontally a minimum of 12" beyond the bottom nosing and 12" plus the tread width beyond the top nosing. Rail ends shall return to floor, wall or post. For stairs with sides that are not parallel, at least one handrail shall be perpendicular to stair nosing. Handrails shall have a space of 1-1/2" between the wall and the handrail and may be located in a recess a maximum of 3" deep and at least 18" above the top of the rail. The grippable part shall be between 1-1/4" and 1-1/2" nominal diameter. Note that "nominal" allows for the use of 1-1/2" steel pipe. Gripping surfaces shall be smooth no sharp corners. Tops and sides of gripping surfaces shall be uninterrupted by newel posts or other obstructions. Surfaces adjacent handrail shall be free of sharp or abrasive elements.


Any accessible route of travel sloping more than 1:20 (5%) is considered a ramp.

Width: The minimum clear width is 48". Where the ramp is the only exit discharge path serving an occupant load of 300 or more it shall have a minimum clear width of 60". Ramps serving Group R occupancies with an occupant load of 50 or less may be 36" clear .

Slope: The maximum slope of a ramp is 1:12 (8.33%). The maximum rise for any run is 30". The least possible slope shall be used for any ramp.

Landings: Landings shall be level. Bottom and intermediate landings shall be at least as wide as required for the ramp. Top landings shall be 60" wide minimum and 60" minimum in direction of run. Bottom landings shall be 72" minimum in direction of run. Intermediate landings shall be 60" minimum in direction of run. Intermediate and bottom landings at a change of direction in excess of 30° shall be 72" minimum in direction of run. Doors in any position shall not reduce the minimum dimension of the landing to less than 42" nor more than 3" when fully open. Landing shall extend past the strike edge of any door or gate 24" for exterior ramps and 18" for interior ramps.

Handrails: Continuous handrails are required on each side, and for the full length, of ramps that provide access. In addition to basic handrail requirements elsewhere in the code, The inside handrail of switchback or dogleg ramps shall be continuous. The ends of handrails shall be either rounded or returned smoothly to floor, wall or post. Exceptions: 1) Ramps immediately adjacent to fixed seating in assembly areas do not require handrails. 2) Curb ramps do not require handrails.

Guards:Ramps more than 30" above adjacent floor or ground shall be provided with guards that comply with Section 1013. Guards shall be continuous from the top to bottom of ramp.

Wheel guides: Wheel guides shall be provided at any ramp or landing not bounded by a wall or fence. Exception: Landings 4" or less above adjacent floor surface. Wheel guide shall be a curb at least 2" high or a rail centered 3" +/-1" above the ramp or landing surface.

Outdoor ramps: Outdoor ramps and their approaches shall not accumulate water on walking surfaces.


Every portion of every building with installed seats, tables, merchandise, equipment or similar items shall be provided with aisles leading to an exit. Aisle width shall be 36" minimum when serving only one side and 44" when serving both sides. Aisles shall also comply with Figure 11B-5E(a) and (b) for circulation around obstructions.

Walks and Sidewalks

A sidewalk is a walk adjacent to a street. Sidewalks are exempt from ramp handrail and landing requirements. For this section, "walk" shall include sidewalk. Walks shall have a continuous surface, not interrupted by steps or by abrupt changes in level exceeding 1/2". Minimum walk width shall be 48". If a walk has less than a 60" clear width, passing spaces at least 60" x 60" shall be located at reasonable intervals not to exceed 200’. A T-intersection is an acceptable passing place. Surfaces shall be slip-resistant. Cross slopes shall not exceed 2%. Walks shall be provided with a level area not less than 60" x 60" at a door or gate that swings toward the walk, and not less than 48" wide by 44" deep at a door or gate that swings away from the walk. Level area shall extend 24" beyond the strike side of a door or gate that swings toward the walk. All walks with continuous gradients shall have level areas at least 5’ long every 400’ or less.


Warning curbs: Abrupt changes in level exceeding 4" shall be identified by curbs no less than 6" above the walk surface. Exception: Between a walk and an adjacent street or driveway. In lieu of curbs, guard or handrails may be used provided that a guide rail is centered 3" +/- 1" above the surface of the walk and the gradient of the walk is 5% or less.

Overhanging obstructions: Nothing over a pedestrian way shall be lower than 80" from the walking surface.

Detectable warnings at hazardous vehicular areas: There shall be a 36" wide continuous detectable warning between walks and vehicular ways when the walk crosses a vehicular way and when a walk is not separated by from a vehicular way a curb or railing. Detectable warning shall comply with Section 1121B.3.1 Item 8(a).

Protruding object: Objects with leading edges between 27" and 80" above the floor may project from walls no more than 4" into walks, corridors, passageways or aisles. Objects with leading edges at or below 27" above the floor may protrude any amount. Freestanding objects mounted on posts may overhang up to 12" inches when 27" to 80" above the floor. Protruding objects shall not reduce the required clear width of an accessible route or maneuvering space. Figure 11B-7A.



Elevators and Wheelchair Lifts:

Elevators: Minimum clear width for elevator doors shall be 36". Car interior shall allow for the turning of a wheelchair. The minimum clear distance between walls or between wall and door, excluding return panels, shall not be less than 80" x 54" for center opening doors, and 68" x 54" side-slide opening doors. Minimum distance from wall to return panel shall be 51". A handrail shall be provided on one wall of the car. Passenger elevators shall be on an accessible route, located near a major path of travel.

See code and Figure 11B-40 for additional details.

Wheelchair lifts: Lifts may be provided as part of an accessible route only for the following conditions:

  1. To a performing area in an assembly occupancy, or to a speaking area or similar place in an assembly or group B occupancy.
  2. To comply with the wheelchair viewing position line-of-sight and dispersion requirements.
  3. To provide access to incidental occupiable spaces and rooms which are not open to the general public and which house no more than five persons, including, but not limited to, equipment control rooms and projection booths.
  4. To provide access where existing site constraints or other constraints make use of a ramp or an elevator infeasible.

Minimum landing size shall be 60" x 60". Other dimensions may be used where it can be demonstrated that a person using a wheelchair can enter and operate the lift safely.


Clear floor space: A clear floor space at least 30" x 48" that allows a parallel approach be provided at the range or cooktop. A clear floor space at least 30" x 48" that allows either a parallel or forward approach shall be provided at the kitchen sink and all other fixtures or appliances including the oven, dishwasher, refrigerator/freezer and trash compactor.

Clear width: Kitchens shall have a minimum clear width measured between any cabinet, counter or the face of any appliance (excluding handles and controls) and the opposing cabinet, countertop, appliance or wall as follows:

  1. U-shaped kitchens, designed with parallel approach at a range or cooktop located at the base of the U, shall have a minimum clear width of at least 60". Figure 11A-10A.
  2. U-Shaped kitchens, designed with a cooktop or sink located at the base of the U which provides a 30" wide knee space to a height of 27" above the floor to allow for a forward approach, shall have a clear width of at least 48". Figure 11A-10A.

All other kitchen designs shall provide a minimum clear width of at least 48". Figure 11A-10A.

Signs and Identification:

Code excerpts: 1117B.5.1

4. Plan review and inspection. Signs and identification as specified in Section 1117B.5.1, when included in the construction of new buildings or facilities, or when included, altered or replaced due to additions, alterations or renovations to existing buildings or facilities, and when a permit is required, shall comply with the following plan review and inspection requirements:

4.1 Plan review. Plans, specifications or other information indicating compliance with these regulations shall be submitted to the enforcing agency for review and approval.

4.2 Inspection. Signs and identification shall be field inspected after installation and approved by the enforcing agency prior to the issuance of a final certificate of occupancy per Appendix Chapter 1, Section 110.2, or final approval where no certificate of occupancy is issued. The inspection shall include, but not be limited to, verification that Braille dots and cells are properly spaced and the size, proportion, and type of raised characters are in compliance with these regulations.

Controls and Operating Mechanisms:

Provide a 30" x 48" clear floor space to allow for a forward or parallel approach at controls, dispensers, receptacles and other operable equipment. The highest operable part of all controls, dispensers, receptacles and other operable equipment shall be placed within at least one of the reach ranges specified in the code. Installation heights of electrical switches and receptacle outlets: Outlets, receptacles, controls and switches intended to be used by occupants to control lighting, outlets, appliances or HVAC equipment, shall be located a distance from the floor no more than 48" to the top of the outlet box nor less than 15" to the bottom of the outlet box. Exceptions:

  1. Outlets installed as part of permanently installed baseboard heaters.
  2. Required outlets shall be permitted in floors when adjacent to sliding panels or walls.
  3. Baseboard electrical outlets used in relocatable partitions, window walls or other electrical convenience floor outlets are not subject to the minimum height requirements.

Fitting and Dressing Rooms:

5% (but no less than one) of dressing rooms for each type of use in each cluster of dressing rooms shall be accessible. The bottom of mirrors in accessible dressing rooms shall not be higher than 20" from the floor. Mirrors shall be full length (at least 18" x 54") and mounted in a position allowing a view to a person on the bench as well as to a person in a standing position. Clothing hooks shall be no higher than 48" from the floor. Accessible dressing room shall have a 24" x 48" bench fixed to the wall along the longer dimension. The bench shall be mounted 17" to 19" above the floor. Clear floor space shall be provided alongside the bench to allow a person using a wheelchair to make a parallel transfer onto the bench. The minimum clear space within the room shall be 60" x 60" with no door encroachment.

Space Allowance and Reach Ranges

Wheelchair passage width: The minimum continuous clear width for single wheelchair passage shall be 36". Occasional narrowing of no more than 24" in length may be 32" in width. The minimum width for two wheelchairs to pass is 60".

Wheelchair turning space: The space required for a wheelchair to make a 180-degree turn is a clear 60" diameter or a T-shaped space. Figure 11B-12.

Size and approach: The minimum clear floor space required to accommodate a single, stationary wheelchair and occupant is 30" x 48". Knee space required under some objects may be part of the clear floor space.

Forward reach: If the clear floor space allows only forward approach to an object, the maximum high forward reach is be 48" and the minimum low forward reach is 15". See Figure 11B-5C(b) for high forward reach is over an obstruction.

Side reach: If the clear floor space allows parallel approach, the maximum high side reach allowed is 54" and the low side reach shall be no less than 9" above the floor. See Figure 11B-5D(c) if the side reach is over an obstruction.

Fixed or Built-in Seating, Tables, and Counters

Minimum number: 5% but no less than one location of each type must be accessible.

Seating: Spaces for wheelchairs provided at fixed tables or counters shall have a clear floor space of 30" wide by 48" deep. Clear floor space shall not overlap knee space by more than 19". (Figure 11B-13).

Knee space: With the exception of checkout or service counters, knee space shall be no less than 27" high, 30" wide and 19" deep.

Height of work surfaces: The tops of tables and counters shall be 28" to 34" above the floor. Where a counter has more than one transaction station, at least 5% (but no less than one) of each type of station shall be located at a section of counter that is at least 36" long and 28" to 34" high.

Sales and service counters, teller windows, and information counters: At least one of each type shall have a section at least 36" with a maximum height of 34" above the floor.

Access to Employee Areas

In general, all employee areas must be accessible. Exceptions:

  1. Observation galleries used primarily for security.
  2. Areas not customarily occupied. Examples include spaces accessed only by ladders, catwalks, crawl spaces, freight elevators, and areas accessed only for repair or maintenance.
  3. Individual workstations only need to be provided with 32" minimum clear entries and comply with aisle provisions of the code. Sections 1133B.6.

Floor Surfaces

"Floor", as used herein, refers to floors (finished or otherwise) and ground surfaces. Floors of accessible routes, rooms and spaces shall be stable, firm and slip-resistant. "Slip-resistant" is not defined by the code, however the recommended static coefficient of friction is 0.6 (0.8 for ramps). "Level", when used in describing a floor, means an area not exceeding a slope of 2% in any direction.

Changes in Level: Up to 1/4": May be vertical. Edge treatment not required. Between 1/4" and 1/2": Shall be beveled 1 vertical to 2 horizontal or a combination of 1/4" vertical plus bevel. Greater than 1/2": Requires the use of curb ramps, ramps, elevators or platform lifts.

Carpet: Carpet shall be securely attached with a firm pad or no pad at all. Texture shall be loop or pile with a maximum pile height of 1/2".

Gratings:Gratings located in walking surfaces shall have spaces no greater than 1/2" wide in at least one direction. If grating has elongated openings, long dimension must be perpendicular to the dominant direction of travel.


Where fixed cabinets, shelves, closets or drawers are provided in areas where access is required, at least one of each type shall be accessible.



Bathing and Toilet Facilities (Sanitary Facilities):

Sanitary facilities serving accessible buildings & facilities shall be accessible.

Identification symbols: Doorways leading to sanitary facilities shall be identified by the appropriate geometric symbol. Center of symbol shall be centered on door at a height of 60". Sanitary facilities without doors shall have symbol located adjacent to the opening.

Where used by children: Facilities used solely by small children may use specially adjusted dimensions available in the code. If a facility is not for the exclusive use of small children, the standard dimensions must be used for the required minimum number of fixtures. You may choose to provide additional fixtures to accommodate small children.

Bathing Facilities: Where bathing facilities are provided, at least one shower or bathtub and support facilities shall be accessible. No less than 1% of all facilities shall be accessible.

Multiple Accommodation Toilet Facilities:

Wheelchair clearance: A turn-around clear space measuring 60" in diameter and 27" in height shall be provided in each room. Other than the doors to the accessible water closet compartment, no door in any position may encroach into this space by more than 12". This space may overlap clear floor spaces for fixtures. Note that alternate T’s and rectangles are not allowed.

Clear floor space at fixtures: Doors shall not swing into the clear floor space required for any fixture. Exception: In-swinging door to an accessible water closet compartment as shown in Figure 11B-1B.

Accessible fixtures: At least one water closet and at least 5% of lavatories (but not less than one) shall be accessible.

Accessible water closet compartment: Width: 60" minimum. Compartments with a side-opening door shall have a minimum 60" x 60" clear floor space in front of the water closet. Compartments with an end-opening door shall have a minimum 60" wide x 48" deep clear floor space in front of the water closet. Door shall be located in front of the wide side of the water closet with a maximum stile width of 4". The compartment door shall have an automatic closing device and a 32" clear opening width when located at the end and 34" when located at the side. Except for door opening width and door swings, a clear, unobstructed access not less than 44" shall be provided to accessible compartments. Maneuvering space at the compartment door shall meet general door requirements but in no case shall the space immediately outside of the compartment door be less than 48" measured perpendicular to the door in its closed position.

Large toilet rooms: Where six or more compartments are provided within a toilet room, at least one compartment shall be as above. Additionally, at least one ambulatory-accessible compartment shall be 36" wide with an outward-swinging, self-closing door.

Single-Accommodation Toilet Rooms:

A clear space measuring 60" in diameter or a T-shaped space per Figure 11B-12(b) shall be provided. No door may encroach into this space by more than 12". This space may overlap clear floor spaces for fixtures. Doors shall not swing into the clear floor space required for any fixture. Room door shall be provided with a privacy latch.



Water closets

The centerline of fixture shall be 18" from one side wall. The other side of the water closet shall be 32" minimum clear to a wall or 28" minimum clear to a fixture. This clear floor space shall extend from the rear wall to the front of the water closet. A minimum 60" wide x 48" deep clear floor space shall be provided in front of the water closet. Grab bars shall be provided on the near side wall and on the rear wall. Ambulatory-accessible compartments shall have a grab bar on both sides. Grab bars shall not project more than 3" from wall. Side grab bars shall be 42" long minimum, located 12" maximum from the rear wall. The front end shall be 54" minimum from the rear wall and 24" minimum in front of the water closet. Side grab bar shall be centered 33" above the floor. Rear grab bar shall be 36" long minimum and extend from the centerline of the water closet 12" minimum on one side and 24" minimum on the other side. Rear grab bar shall be centered 33 inches" above the floor. Exception: Where a tank-type toilet is used not allowing placement at 33", the grab bar may be as high as 36" and the space between the bar and the top of the tank shall be 1-1/2" minimum. The height of accessible water closets shall be a minimum of 17" and a maximum of 19" measured to the top of a maximum 2" high toilet seat. Controls for the flush valves shall be mounted on the wide side of the toilet no more than 44" above the floor.


Urinals shall be floor mounted, stall-type or wall hung. See code for specific wall-hung requirements. Flush controls shall be mounted no more than 44" above the floor. Where urinals are provided, at least one shall have a clear floor space 30" wide by 48" inches deep in front.


When located adjacent to a side wall or partition, centerline of lavatory shall be 18" inches minimum from wall. Minimum depth shall be 17". Rim or counter edge shall be no higher than 34" above the finished floor. Vertical clearance from floor to the bottom of the apron or the outside bottom edge of the lavatory shall be 29". This clearance may reduce to 27" starting at a point 8" or more from the front edge. A minimum 9" high toe clearance must be provided extending back toward the wall to a distance no more than 6" from the back wall. A clear floor space 30" wide by 48" deep shall be provided in front of a the lavatory. The space may extend up to 19" into knee and toe space under the lavatory. Hot water and drain pipes accessible under lavatories shall be insulated or otherwise covered. There shall be no sharp or abrasive surfaces under lavatories.


Accessible showers shall comply with one of the following:

  • Roll-in shower: 60" minimum width and 30" minimum depth with a full opening width on the long side. Figure 11B-2A.
  • Alternate roll-in showers: 60" minimum width and 36" depth with an entrance opening width of 36" minimum. Figure 11B-2B or Figure 11B-2C.

Thresholds in roll-in type showers shall be 1/2" high maximum. Where, within the same functional area, two or more accessible showers are provided, there shall be at least one shower constructed opposite hand from the other or others. A flexible hand-held sprayer unit with a hose at least 60" long that can be used both as a fixed showerhead and as a hand-held shower shall be provided. This unit shall be mounted such that the top of the mounting bracket is at a maximum height of 48" above the shower floor. See code for detailed water control requirements. The maximum slope of the floor shall be 2% in any direction. Where drains are provided, grate openings shall be a maximum of 1/4" and flush with the floor. Shower accessories shall include:

  • A folding seat mounted 18" above the floor. Figures 11B-2A, 11B-2B, 11B-2C and 11B-2D.
  • An L-shaped grab bar mounted on walls opposite and adjacent to the front edge of the seat, but not extended to include that portion of wall over the seat. Grab bars shall be mounted of 33" minimum and 36" maximum above the shower floor. Figure 11B-2A or 11B-2B.
  • When a soap dish is provided, it shall be located on the control wall at a maximum height of 40" above the shower floor, and within reach limits from the seat.

Enclosures, if provided, shall not obstruct controls or obstruct transfer from wheelchairs onto shower seats.


Clear floor space at bathtubs shall be as shown in Figure 11B-8. An in-tub seat or a seat at the head end of the tub shall be provided as shown in Figures 11B-8 and 11B-9. Grab bars shall be provided as shown in Figure 11B-9. Faucets and other controls shall be located as shown in Figure 11B-9. A shower spray unit with a hose at least 60" long that can be used both as a fixed showerhead and as a hand-held shower shall be provided. Enclosures, if provided, shall not obstruct controls or transfer from wheelchairs onto bathtub seats or into tubs. Enclosures have tracks mounted on tub.

Drinking Fountains

Where only one drinking fountain area is provided on a floor, there shall be a drinking fountain that is accessible to individuals who use wheelchairs in accordance with the items below and one accessible to those who have difficulty bending or stooping. Where more than one drinking fountain is provided on a floor, 50% comply with items below.

  1. Clearances: Wall and post-mounted cantilevered drinking fountains shall be a minimum of 18" and a maximum of 19" in depth and shall have a clear knee space 27" high, 30" wide, and 8" deep. Toe clearance shall be 9" high and 17" deep. A clear floor space at least 30" wide by 48" deep shall be provided in front of the drinking fountain.
  2. Manually activated bubbler control shall be front-mounted or side-mounted within 6" of the front edge of the fountain. The bubbler orifice shall be within 6" of the front edge of the fountain and within 36" of the floor. The water stream from the bubbler shall be substantially parallel to the front edge of the fountain.
  3. The spout shall provide a flow of water that allows use of a cup or glass.

All drinking fountains shall be located completely within alcoves, between wing walls, or otherwise located to not encroach into pedestrian ways. The alcove shall not be less than 32" wide and 18" deep. Figure 11B-3.



Grab bars:

Grab bars shall be 1-1/4" to 1-1/2" in diameter. Wall-mounted bars shall be 1-1/2" clear of wall. Grab bars shall not rotate within their fittings.


Mirrors located above accessible lavatories or counter tops shall be installed with the bottom edge of the reflecting surface no more than 40" above the floor. If mirrors provided at locations other than above lavatories or counter tops, at least one shall be installed with the bottom edge of the reflecting surface no more than 35" above the floor.

Towel, sanitary napkins, waste receptacles, dispensers and control:

Where provided, at least one of each type shall be located on an accessible route, with all operable parts, including coin slots, no more than 40" from the floor.

Toilet tissue dispensers:

Dispenser shall be located on the wall within 12" of the front edge of the toilet seat. Mount below grab bar, at a minimum height of 19". Far edge shall be no more than 36" from the rear wall.


Where lockers are provided, at least one locker and not less than 1% of all lockers shall be made accessible. A 36" clear path of travel shall be provided to accessible lockers.


11) Fire Detection and Alarm Systems

Manual fire alarm boxes

The height of the manual fire alarm boxes shall be a 42" minimum and 48" maximum from the floor to the highest point needed to be reached for activation.

Visible alarms

Where audible alarms are provided, visible alarms shall be provided in all public and common use areas. Employee work areas with audible alarms must be designed with a 20% spare capacity (minimum) to accommodate adding visible alarm location for future hearing-impaired employees. Group I-1 and R-1 sleeping units shall have a visible alarm that is activated by both the in-room smoke alarm and the building fire alarm system. Group R-2 occupancies required to have a fire alarm system must be capable of providing visible alarms in all dwelling units and sleeping units. Group I-1, R-3.1 and R-4 protective social care facilities with hearing-impaired residents shall have visible alarms activated by the fire alarm system or the smoke alarms.



If specific building features are not mentioned under a particular occupancy (or an occupancy group is not covered) assume that those features must comply with the general requirements. As mentioned earlier, some details are not addressed in this hub.

Group A (Assembly)

Assistive-listening systems: Regardless of occupancy, all assembly areas (including conference and meeting rooms) must be provided with assistive-listening systems. See code for signage and portable system requirements.

Seating: Auditoriums, assembly halls, theaters, gymnasiums, and related facilities must be provided with equitably distributed accessible seating and wheelchair spaces. See code for specific requirements.

Performing areas: An accessible route shall connect wheelchair seating locations with performing areas, including stages, arena floors, dressing rooms, locker rooms and other spaces used by performers. Stages, platforms, and orchestra pits shall be accessible.

Sports facilities: Participant areas must be accessible. See code for specific requirements.

Ticket booths: Customer side must be accessible. Employee side accessibility depends on the facility use. See code.

Concession stands: Customer and employee sides must be accessible.

Raised or sunken food service areas: All raised or sunken areas shall be accessible. A raised platform where a head table or speaker’s lectern is located shall be accessible.

Dining seating: Each dining, banquet and bar area shall have one wheelchair seating space for each 20 seats, with at least one minimum wheelchair seating space per functional area. Accessible seating must be distributed to allow for a reasonable selection of seating area, not grouped in one area. Counters exceeding 34" in height which are used by customers for the consumption of food and beverage shall have an accessible portion no less than 60" long.

Food service aisles: 36" wide minimum, 42" preferred.

Food prep areas: Doors and aisles shall comply with CBC chapter 10.

Group B (Business)

Law enforcement and courtrooms: At least one detention cell and its sanitary facilities must be accessible.

Group E (Educational)

Laboratory rooms: A least one workstation, and no less than 5% of all workstations, shall be accessible. Unreasonable hardship exceptions may be granted for special use rooms and specialized equipment.

Student work areas: A least one workstation/area of every type (and no less than 5%) shall be accessible.

Library stacks: Main aisles shall be no less than 42" clear, other aisles shall be no less than 36" clear. What actually constitutes a main aisle is anyone’s guess. Unattended bookshelves shall be no more than 54" above the floor.

Check-out areas: At least one lane at each check-out area shall be accessible.

Group F (Factories):

The following areas shall be accessible:

  1. Major or principal floor areas
  2. Office areas
  3. Sanitary facilities serving these areas

Group S (Storage):

The following areas shall be accessible:

  1. Miscellaneous warehousing areas located on the floor nearest grade and those areas on other floors that are otherwise provided with access by level entry, ramp or elevator
  2. Office areas
  3. Sanitary facilities serving these areas

Group H (High-Hazard):

The following areas shall be accessible:

  1. Sanitary facilities
  2. Employee work areas

Group I (Institutional):

Entrance and passenger loading zone: At least one accessible entrance shall have a passenger loading zone. Entrance and loading zone must be protected from weather via canopy or roof. Exception: Facilities not intended for patient stays of 24 hours or more that are above the first story and do not have a dedicated exterior entrance.

Patient rooms and toilet rooms: Required quantity of accessible patient bedrooms and associated toilet rooms shall be as follows: 1) Long-term care facilities: No less than 50%. 2) General-purpose hospitals, psychiatric facilities and detoxification facilities: No less than 10%. 3) Facilities specializing the treatment of conditions that affect mobility: 100%. Each bedroom shall have a 60" diameter turning space or the equivalent T-shaped space. An accessible route shall be provided to all bedsides and aisles at each bedside shall be no less than 36" clear.

Group M (Mercantile):

Sales areas: Sales areas must generally be accessible. Exceptions:

  1. Minor specialized display areas less than 200 square feet and inaccessible by the general public.
  2. Sales facilities not exceeding 5,000 square feet in total area on an inaccessible level.

Group R (Residential):

CBC 11A or 11B? The DSA has provided the following breakdown for determining which chapter applies to a housing project:

Chapter 11A - Multifamily Dwellings including but not limited to:

  • Apartment Buildings w/3 or more dwelling units
  • Condominiums with 4 or more dwelling units
  • Lodging Houses with 3 or more guest rooms
  • Congregate Residences
  • Dwellings with 3 or more efficiency units
  • Shelters for the homeless
  • Dormitories
  • Time Share dwellings with 3 or more units
  • Other Group R occupancies in Covered Multifamily Dwellings as per Fire Marshal

Chapter 11B - Public accommodations and publicly funded housing including but not limited to:

  • Hotels
  • Congregate residences
  • Residential care facilities for the elderly

There are some special cases that may alter the above. See CBC Chapter 11A for more information.

Commercial facilities in private residences: Private residences are generally exempt; however, areas used for commercial purposes by employees or visitors must comply with the access code. Additionally, the path of travel and sanitary facilities serving the commercial areas must be accessible.

Public and common use rooms or areas: At least one of each type of amenity (such as washers, dryers and similar equipment installed for the use of occupants) in each common area shall be accessible and shall be located on an accessible route to any accessible unit or sleeping accommodation. Exception: Where elevators are not required, accessible amenities are not required on inaccessible floors as long as one of each type is provided in common areas on accessible floors.

Transient lodging: Hotels, motels, inns, dormitories, resorts, homeless shelters, halfway houses and similar places shall be accessible.

Available range of accommodations: Accessible guest rooms shall be distributed to allow for selection among all classes, sizes, amenities and costs available at any given facility. See CBC for detailed quantity requirements.

Guest rooms: All required accessible sleeping rooms or suites shall comply with requirements for hearing impaired guests.

Doors: Doors to and within accessible guestrooms must meet required size and maneuvering clearances. Doors to and within guestrooms that are not required to be accessible must meet required size but are not required to provided maneuvering clearances.

Access to beds: Beds in accessible sleeping rooms shall have a 36" wide clear maneuvering space on both sides. Where two beds are provided, a single 36" wide clear space may be located between beds. A clear space must also be provided under accessible beds.

Kitchens and wet bars: When provided, must be accessible.



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    • profile image

      Frank Mitchell, III. 

      6 years ago

      City of Santa Ana engineering plan-checker (licensed structural engineer) told me that "I must have 'man-door' through outside chain-link fence for handicap exit from rear parking lot of manufacturing building (one-story, F-1 Occupancy)" Only chain-link vehicle gates are present, and they are always open during business hours. Where---in C.B.C. code---does it say that 36" wide man-door must be made (which would necessitate new fencing and moving of existing gates)? Building permits would not be allowed until this matter is cleared up.


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