The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990 to provide standards and requirements for access to public spaces by persons with disabilities. The ADA states that "The requirements are to be applied during the design, construction, additions to, and alteration of sites, facilities, buildings, and elements to the extent required by regulations issued by Federal agencies under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)." One of the requirements is access to electrical outlets.
Adult Unobstructed Reach Requirements
Electrical outlets and switches, or "receptacles," must comply with "reach ranges" established by ADA in section 308 of the standards. These requirements permit people in wheelchairs to reach the outlets from the front or side. An unobstructed reach means the wheelchair can be placed directly in front of the receptacle or sideways within 10 inches of the receptacle. The receptacle height range for an unobstructed front or side reach is 15 inches minimum from the floor to 48 inches maximum.
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Adult Obstructed Reach Requirements
For a forward reach over an obstacle such as a shelf the requirement is 48 inches maximum above the floor for obstacles 20 inches or less in depth, and 44 inches maximum for obstacles 20 to 25 inches deep. For obstructed side reaches, such as over a table or file cabinet, receptacle minimum height is above the obstacle, which is limited to 34 inches high. The maximum receptacle height is 48 inches for obstacles less than 10 inches wide, and 46 inches for obstacles 10 to 24 inches wide.
Reach Limits for Children
The receptacle design reach limits for children are also set by the regulations. These limits apply for any construction that will be used primarily by children. Forward or side reach ranges are established in inches for age groups. For ages 3 and 4, ranges are 20 minimum to 36 maximum. For ages 5 through 8, ranges are 18 minimum to 40 maximum. For ages 9 through 12, ranges are 16 minimum to 44 maximum. For children older than 12 years, use the adult ranges.
The regulations provide for specific exceptions to the reach requirements. For side reaches, an obstruction less than 10 inches wide and 15 inches high does not create an obstructed reach requirement. An example would be reaching a receptacle over a short curb or wall element. A separate exception allows the height of washers and dryers to be 36 inches above a finished floor; the obstructed side reach requirement should be used for receptacle height. There is also an exception for fuel dispensers not related to this article.