Increase in Outdoor Dining May Make Sidewalks Inaccessible

Increase in Outdoor Dining May Make Sidewalks Inaccessible

22 Apr 2021 By Admin

The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in some significant changes in all of our lives, but for disabled people, one difference, in particular, has made their lives more difficult. In response to restrictions, bars and restaurants in many major cities have increased their outdoor dining capacity. This has made sidewalks challenging to navigate for wheelchair users, partially sighted individuals, and other disabled people. As an ADA contractor, this is disheartening to hear as we know how much work goes into making sure public sidewalks are accessible, and that seems to have been pushed aside in some places with little regard for disabled people.

According to the ADA regulations, sidewalks are required to a minimum of 36 inches in width in order to allow wheelchair access. However, with tables, chairs, and decor items in front of many city restaurants, that space is often made smaller. Some cities have considered this and have drawn up guidelines to help keep their sidewalks compliant. For example, in San Francisco, restaurants were issued with reopening guidance for outdoor dining, including various requirements, including making sure that nothing blocks anybody’s ability to pass safely, including avoiding blocking ADA compliant sidewalk access. The city also offers shared spaces permits to allow temporary use of sidewalks and parking lanes - while still adhering to ADA guidance. However, not all cities have been so aware of their responsibilities concerning ADA guidance during the pandemic.

ADA Compliant Sidewalk Requirements

As an ADA contractor, we are often called upon to work with businesses to make sure that they provide appropriate access for disabled customers.

  • Slope - To be compliant with regulations, an ADA contractor must ensure that the cross slope of any sidewalk ramp is no more than half an inch.
  • Width - As stated, the width of an ADA compliant sidewalk must be at least 36 inches.
  • Curb Ramps - Newly built and altered streets now require curb raps wherever curbs are a barrier from the street to the sidewalk. ADA regulations limit curb ramps to a steepness no more than 1:12.


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