Rules for accommodating customers

Any restaurant that opened for first occupancy after January 26, 1993 must conform with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines unless it is "structurally impracticable to meet the requirements." Restaurants it opened before the cutoff date don’t have to be fully accessible but must remove all architectural and communication barriers to the greatest extent possible or provide alternative means of making goods and services available to people with disabilities. Less-stringent requirements apply to properties designated as historic under national, state or local law if achieving compliance would "threaten their historical significance."

Parking requirements

Accessible parking spaces must be provided close to the business that provide adequate space to exit vehicles and enter the business through a clear, accessible path. There must be one accessible spot for every 25 parking spaces and one in every eight accessible spots must be at least 8 feet in width to accommodate vans. Parking spots must be on a surface with no more than a 2% slope.

Building entrance requirements

Restaurants must have entrances either flush to the ground or accessible via a 36-inch-wide ramp with no more than a 2% slope. If there is no way to make the main entrance accessible than alternative entrances may be used. Doors must be at least 36 inches wide, require less than five pounds of pressure to open and use loop-and lever-style handles rather than knobs or panels.

For restaurants that operate in places that are structurally inaccessible, such as upper floors of the building without elevator, they must make delivery services available to customers’ homes or cars.

Seating requirements

Aisles between fixed seats must be at least 36 inches wide and at least 5% of tables and establishments with more than 20 tables must be ADA-compliant. Spaces to accommodate wheelchairs must measure at least 30-inches by 48-inches, and tabletops and counters should measure between 28 inches and 34 inches.

Restroom should provide enough space for a wheelchair to maneuver. Safety bars should be provided in toilet stalls and sinks and soap dispensers must be accessible to people with mobility disabilities. Braille should be used in signage.

Restaurant employees with disabilities

Equal Employment Opportunity regulations that apply to any job applicant also apply to restaurant employees. It is illegal to ask potential employees whether they have a disability or to make a job offer conditional upon the person’s disability status. Employers can’t revoke a job offer if an employee discloses the existence of a disability unless making accommodations would "cause undue hardship" to the business, such as requiring significant financial expense, disruption, or business change.

Helpful resources for restaurant owners and managers