If you’re a restaurant owner or planning to be, you want to learn everything you can about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). President George Bush signed the ADA into law in 1990, a landmark civil rights legislation that requires employers, state and local governments, and businesses to provide equal access to products and services for people with disabilities. This blog covers ADA requirements for restaurants and how they relate to digital accessibility requirements concerning the WCAG.
Accessibility laws extend to the digital world (e.g., websites and mobile devices). That’s why it’s crucial to abide by the ADA and WCAG to ensure your business accommodates people of all abilities and to help mitigate possible lawsuits for non-compliance.
First, let’s learn more about ADA compliance.
What are the ADA Requirements for Restaurants
In simple terms, restaurant accessibility concerning the ADA is about removing physical barriers for people with disabilities. This should be a welcome requirement because it opens your establishment to all people, strengthening customer loyalty and increasing overall revenue. Generally, your restaurant must provide accessible parking and routes to all dining areas, including raised or sunken and outdoor dining areas.
Modifying the physical spaces below increases accessibility for people with disabilities:
- Provide designated handicapped spaces close to your establishment.
- Provide ample space for existing vehicles and an accessible pathway to your business.
- Provide one accessible parking spot for every 25 spots in your lot.
- Make one of every eight accessible spots 8 feet wide for vans.
- Offer level-surface spots that don’t exceed 2% slope.
- Entrances must be ground-level or have a 36-inch wide ramp minimum of 60 inches long with a gradual 2% slope.
- You must provide 34-inch to 38-inch tall handrails if your ramp exceeds 6 feet in length.
- If you can’t make your main entrance accessible, use another option, like an employee-only back door. Then, provide signage indicating an entry, and ensure it has an apparent accessible path.
- Make passenger loading zones roughly 60 inches wide and 20 inches long and parallel to your building.
- If your restaurant isn’t accessible (e.g., a second-floor operation with no elevator), you can comply by delivering to a customer’s home or car.
- Make entrances a minimum of 36 inches in width for people who use wheelchairs.
- All handles must be maneuverable using a closed fist (no squeezing or turning required).
- Use loop and lever handles instead of knob and panel levers.
- Pushing or pulling a door should take under 5 lbs. of pressure.
- Make aisles between shelves and tables a minimum of 36 inches in width.
- Merchandise, condiments, flatware, and other self-service elements must be reachable for people who use wheelchairs unless a staff member can assist.
- Designate a space (either t-shaped or a 5-foot circle) where customers who use wheelchairs can turn.
- Make all path barriers more than 27 inches off the floor and 4 inches from the wall so they’re easily identifiable.
Seats, Tables, and Counters
- A 36-inch aisle must separate all fixed seating.
- 5% of your tables must conform. Or a minimum of one table must comply if you have less than 20.
- There must be a 30-inch by 48-inch floor for table or counter wheelchair seating.
- Make all tabletops and counters 28-34 inches high for wheelchair accessibility.
- Knee room under tables and counters should be at least 30 inches in width and 27 inches in height, and 19 inches in depth.
- Provide ample room for wheelchairs to navigate around toilets and sinks.
- Provide an accessible stall that has safety bars to mitigate accidents.
- Provide sufficient under-the-sink space for wheelchair users to reach soap and faucets.
- Offer Braille restroom signs to inform blind people or those with other vision-related conditions.
Contact the DOJ for Further ADA Guidance
Call one of two numbers below to contact the DOJ’s dedicated ADA info line:
- 800-514-0301 (voice)
- 1-833-610-1264 (TTY)
You’ll get information concerning:
- ADA Requirements
- Specifics on how the ADA affects your business
- Complaint filing
- Answers to tech questions
The following section explains how restaurant ADA compliance relates to digital accessibility.
The ADA and Digital Accessibility
There’s an overall lack of clarity concerning the ADA and legal enforcement of digital accessibility. First, the ADA’s language doesn’t specifically address digital accessibility. Second, the WCAG provides compliance guidelines that the ADA doesn’t include as written regulations. Third, the Department of Justice (DOJ) doesn’t spell out detailed regulatory guidelines but has long interpreted that nondiscrimination and adequate communication services apply to web accessibility.
So, where do you go from here? No matter what, ADA requirements for restaurants should also include provisions for digital accessibility. And the best way to ensure you offer digital accessibility and help prevent legal action is to comply with WCAG guidelines. Related lawsuits are rising, and courts increasingly favor plaintiffs, resulting in hefty legal fines for companies of all sizes. For example, there were 3,355 such federal court lawsuits in 2022 (a record-setting year), a 12% increase in 2022 lawsuits.
Nonetheless, most websites worldwide still aren’t accessible, and numerous digital accessibility companies can help you comply with the most crucial laws. They provide assistive technology tools that enable people with disabilities to take full advantage of websites and digital devices.
Ready for more good news?
Tax Breaks for ADA Compliance
Complying with the ADA can tap into your budget. But related tax breaks are welcome relief— the IRS Code states that all businesses that install ADA-compliant equipment or remove barriers qualify for deductions. Here’s how those tax breaks work:
- Maximum deduction: $15,000 annually
- Small businesses: the tax credit covers up to 50% ( $10,250 annually) of compliance-related spending.
- Large companies: those with 30+ employees or $1 million+ in previous-year revenues qualify for the deduction.
Let’s follow up good news with much-needed guidance. The digital accessibility tips below offer a helping hand.
7 Digital Accessibility Tips to Support ADA Requirements
These tips will point you toward making your website digitally accessible and compliant with the most critical related laws.
1. Add Proper Alt Text to Images
Alt text describes image content for people with vision-related impairments, including those who rely on screen readers or Braille devices.
2. Use Appropriate Headings
Proper headings and subheadings help summarize a given webpage. They help people with disabilities, who may prefer skimming web content, find the info they need. Efficient headings also simplify web navigation for screen reader users.
3. Provide PDF Accessibility
Ensure your PDFs are accessible and conform to WCAG and ADA standards. This is an excellent example of how a digital accessibility company with dedicated services can help.
4. Add Labels to Form Fields
HTML labels help screen readers align labels or prompts with the correct form fields
5. Provide Enough Color Contrast
Your foreground text and background colors must contrast sharply for maximum readability. Again, many assistive tech tools can help you achieve this.
6. Use the Right-Sized Fonts
Only some end users know they can alter font size with browser hotkeys. That’s why it’s best to use a relatively big baseline font that users can decrease.
7. Embrace White Space
Providing ample room between sentences and paragraphs helps end users of all abilities scan content horizontally and increases overall readability.
Conclusion: Accessibility is a Physical And Digital Necessity
In short, people with disabilities, who make up the world’s most significant minority (over one billion globally), deserve and must have equal access to physical and digital environments. This critical demographic enjoys dining at their favorite restaurants and relies on the Internet and digital devices to conduct their lives. Just as a person in a wheelchair needs equal access to parking spaces and patio tables, someone with a visual or physical impairment needs equal access to your website. After all, people frequently make reservations and learn pertinent info about your restaurant online.
Beyond the nuts and bolts, though, there’s an undeniable ethical obligation to serve the needs of all people. And restaurant accessibility usually starts online and continues when somebody enters your doors.
Find out how UserWay is a one-stop solution for all your digital accessibility and compliance needs.
UserWay: Unlock Your Digital Accessibility Potential
No matter what business you’re in, UserWay is the one-stop answer to all your accessibility and conformance needs. Learn how a complete framework of AI-powered tools and other services can help make your website digitally accessible and compliant with all critical related laws.
Get started by speaking with a digital accessibility expert right away.
Answers to Common FAQs
What if My Restaurant Can’t Afford to Make Changes Now?
It may not be possible to eliminate every barrier from your restaurant now. For instance, if removing a barrier is extremely cost-prohibitive, it doesn’t have to be addressed until the resources are readily available.
How Does the ADA Relate to Employees’ Rights?
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces Title I of the ADA. It mandates that private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies, and labor unions cannot discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities when applying for jobs, getting hired, getting fired, or engaging in training.
How Does the ADA Relate to Digital Accessibility
Although the laws are ambiguous, the best rule of thumb is to follow WCAG guidelines. This will help ensure your digital accessibility efforts are in lockstep with your physical accessibility requirements concerning the ADA.