Written By: Joyce Nemenyi
A Brief History:
Signed in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all public areas, including jobs, education and transportation. Recently, there has been a surge of higher education, courtrooms, businesses and multiple other markets coming to terms with the need for ADA furniture in their spaces. Many re-designs now request movable monitors, easily accessible technology and adjustable furniture pieces. But what is ADA compliance? Presumably, when someone thinks of ADA furniture, it likely comes in the form of ramps, walkways or motorized wheelchair lifts. Free-standing furniture, however, requires a complex mix of adjustable parts and available space to meet ADA. The type of furniture must first be considered, the equipment storage and interactive technology needs have to be integrated and then available seating at the unit needs to be accommodated. At Marshall Furniture, our sensitivity and versatility to ever-changing needs has provided us the opportunity to learn and implement the guidelines needed to ensure compliance.
ADA & Furniture:
Most assume adjusting furniture height is the end-all to solving ADA issues but that simply isn’t true. When you’re seated, it’s not just about work surface height. Users want to sit comfortably – so they need knee space. Users want to interact with all technology – so they need equal access to controls. In order to meet all three – adjustable height, available knee space and equal interaction with technology – we’ve got to start at the beginning and work our way to the end.
To begin, what is the application? If its higher education, the room may need an instructor station, training tables or a work station for lab work. Businesses may need office desks, conference tables or huddle stations for quick meetings. Courtrooms have a bench for the judge, jury tables, witness stands, etc. Each market has individual furniture pieces that they will need.
Secondly, consider what is going in the piece. Does it need a touch panel, a monitor or any microphones? How about storage equipment? Will there be racked technology such as transmitters, amplifiers or switchers? With AV furniture, it is imperative that technology be efficiently and discreetly stored, which is why it can get tricky with “off-the-shelf” units when you need to add in movable parts for ADA.
Lastly, will there be more than one user at the station? For a table, how many individuals will need to be accommodated? How much space is behind, in front of or around the unit? Presenters may need to travel around a table or get behind a lectern to use it. If there’s not enough space (because the furniture is too big, the room is too small or there’s a bulky side shelf), then compliance is still an issue.
A Marriage – ADA Compliance and Custom Furniture:
The great thing about custom furniture is that you never have to worry about compromising ADA needs or technology space for a fully functional and compliant piece. We work one-on-one with multiple clients everyday to ensure all their project specifications are met. Here’s a few examples of ADA requests based off of previous client feedback.
Community College X needs an instructor’s station. They need it to be ADA, have plenty of work space and house rack equipment to run an interactive panel and confidence monitor.
A desk with available knee space that meets ADA specifications, plenty of rack units and a large work surface for equipment. This unit is even budget-friendly, which is another important concern to keep in mind as ADA compliance can get expensive. Making sure the unit itself is relatively low cost helps when so many movable parts and extra storage space needs to be included.
University X needs a small lectern. They want to meet ADA. They’ve got a touch panel and monitor they want to integrate, along with components that will run both. They’ll need everything locked up but accessible when needed. They also need it to move freely about the room.
A compact ADA lectern that uses almost every inch of space to accommodate an 8″ motorized lift, 11 rack units, locking casters, pullout surface and equipment integration. This unit meets all three ADA needs for furniture: the lift allows adjustability of the surface, the pullout surface provides a temporary knee space and all controls are accessible to the seated presenter.
Company X wants a large conference table for a new video conference room. It needs to seat about 12-16 people and will have cable pass, microphones and space for user laptops.
First, it’s important to ensure proper ADA guidelines for seating space are met. At least 30″ of width must be allotted for each person and the table must be the correct size in relation to the room to ensure wheelchair clearance around the furniture (at least 60″ for 360 degrees of swivel). If someone cannot back away from the table edge and/or turn to exit the room, compliance has not been met.
In the End…
As you can see, equal compliance, aesthetics and seamless integration can easily come together to create a great-looking, functional piece. By utilizing custom furniture, users can ensure their new and rehabbed spaces meet all guidelines set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act. In addition to providing resources for every presenter, each piece can be customized to fit a room’s style, color scheme or wood type. Call us today and let us know what aspects you need to include for your next project. We’d be more than happy to show you just how easy it can be to integrate all aspects of your vision to create a one-of-a-kind, high-quality (and ADA-friendly) piece of furniture.