Life at iLevel (dot) com

Your Rights: What Wheelchair Users Need to Know

By Stephanie Woodward
Friday, February 1st, 2019

Have you ever gone to a store but couldn’t get in because of a step? Have you gone into a public bathroom but couldn’t wash your hands because the soap was out of reach? Have you been to a restaurant with no wheelchair accessible seating? All these things violate your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Here are the top five things power wheelchair users should know about the ADA. 

1) Parking lots

Many motorized wheelchair users struggle in parking lots due to lack of parking for wheelchair accessible vans. Here is what you should know:

  • Every parking lot, no matter how small, must have at least one accessible parking space. Larger parking lots must have multiple accessible parking spaces
  • Every parking lot must have at least one cross-hatching space (the area with diagonal lines that many electric wheelchair users need to deploy the ramps from their vehicles)
  • Accessible parking spots must be located on the shortest accessible route

2) Businesses with one step entrances

As a power wheelchair user, I get frustrated when I find businesses that have a step to get inside. Here’s what you should know:

  • Removing barriers such as one step entrances is required when readily achievable
  • Readily achievable means "easily accomplishable without much difficulty or expense."
  • Often, removing one step is “readily achievable.”
  • This requirement is for ALL businesses, even if they existed before the ADA was enacted

3) Bathrooms

Before I got my iLevel® power wheelchair, I struggled in bathrooms because I couldn’t reach the soap or paper towels. Even today, I still struggle in some bathrooms because they don’t comply with the ADA. Here are some ADA basics about bathrooms:

  • Soap and paper towel dispensers must be between 15 – 48 inches above the floor
  • Accessible stalls must be large enough to fit a wheelchair and shut the door behind it, and they must have grab bars behind and alongside the toilet
  • There must be clear floor space to allow a forward approach to the sink, with no cupboards underneath

4) Pathways

Many times, electric wheelchair users encounter tiny doorways or displays in aisles. Here’s what you should know about pathways:

  • Doorways must be at least 32 inches wide
  • Aisles and paths must be at least 36 inches wide and remain clear. Stores cannot put displays in aisles unless there is at least 36 inches of clear space to get around them  
  • There must not be any steps in an accessible path
  • There must be signage directing individuals to the accessible entrance/exit
  • Businesses must have at least one accessible route from sidewalks, bus stops, and parking lots to their location. Accessible pathways cannot be blocked by tables or flower pots

5) Seating in restaurants

Going out to eat should be fun, not a hassle! Yet sometimes, restaurants only have booth seating or high-top tables. High-top tables can be great for people who have iLevel®, but not everyone has an iLevel® power wheelchair. When going out to eat, remember:

  • There must be accessible paths to tables
  • There must be clear space underneath tables, so a motorized wheelchair user can pull up to it
  • The height of the table can be no more than 34" and no less than 28" above the floor
  • If tables are attached to ground or wall, at least five percent of tables, but no less than one table, must be wheelchair accessible
  • Accessible seating must be distributed throughout restaurant. They can’t put all accessible tables by the bathroom

About Stephanie: Stephanie Woodward is a consumer advocate for Quantum Rehab® and works as a disability rights activist. She is the director for the Center for Disability Rights, an organization that hosts many events for the disability community. She has received many awards for helping communities become more accessible, as well as for her actions in fighting for the rights of disabled individuals as it relates to Medicaid and other support services. Click here to learn more about Stephanie. 

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