A handicap parking space in an ADA-compliant parking lot

Guide to ADA Compliance in California

Guide to ADA Compliance in California


Ensuring your California business is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is crucial, as California is the most ADA litigious state. Any violation of the ADA in California is a civil rights violation, and as such, may be subject to a minimum statutory penalty. ADA lawsuits cost California businesses millions of dollars every year.

ADA laws were established to protect the rights of disabled people. If a disabled person encounters a building condition that fails to meet the ADA accessibility requirements, they may be entitled to file a lawsuit and recover compensation. To stay protected against expensive lawsuits and penalties, your business should be ADA-compliant.

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Summary of California ADA Requirements

To achieve ADA compliance in California, the first step is understanding California ADA laws. For businesses in the state, the ADA has established requirements for the following:

Under the ADA, a disability is defined as a mental or physical impairment that significantly limits at least one major life activity. All people are entitled to equal and full accommodations, facilities, advantages, services or privileges in all business establishments, regardless of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, ancestry, medical condition or disability.

Violating the ADA is a violation of state law as well. Some frivolous lawsuits are filed as a result, so modifications have been put in place to provide some protection to business owners. These include:

  • A plaintiff needs to have personally encountered an accessibility barrier before they may file a lawsuit.
  • A plaintiff can file only one claim, even if they encountered multiple accessibility barriers.

A property owner may want to have their facility inspected and certified by a Certified Access Specialist for added protection.

The ADA has requirements for ramps, walkways, stairs, parking lots, signs, and bathrooms


ADA Ramp Requirements and Walkway Width in California

California ADA ramp specifications state that any path used for travel with a slope greater than a 1-foot rise in 20 feet of a horizontal run is considered a ramp. Under California ADA laws, there are requirements for ramps and walkways. The key requirements are as follows:


  • Slope requirements: For a ramp that provides handicap access, is used as an exit or is in the path of travel, the maximum slope under the ADA requirements is a 1-foot rise in 12 feet of horizontal run. For an existing ramp, the slope cannot exceed a 1-foot rise to 8 feet of horizontal run.
  • Width requirements: ADA ramp width in California is a requirement for exits. The requirement for the minimum width of a ramp is 48 inches. A top landing and an intermediate landing should be a minimum of 60 inches in width.
  • Requirements for landings: If a ramp has a slope ratio that is greater than 1 vertical to 15 horizontal, it should have landings at the bottom, top and at the intermediate level for every 5 feet of rise. Intermediate and top landings must have a ramp run dimension of no less than 5 feet. For a landing at the bottom of a ramp, the dimension of the ramp run should not be less than 6 feet.
  • Maintenance requirements: Ramps should be well maintained and in good repair to comply with maintenance requirements.
  • Door requirements: A door should not decrease a landing’s minimum dimension to less than 42 inches. A door should also not decrease the required width of a landing by more than 3 1/2 inches when it is fully open.
  • Surface requirements: The surface requirements of ramps note that ramps should be roughened or made from nonslip materials.
  • Handrail requirements: A ramp that has a slope that exceeds 1 vertical to 15 horizontal should have handrails as required for stairways. One exception, however, is that handrails at the intermediate level are not required.
  • Guardrail requirements: A ramp that rises more than 30 inches above an adjacent floor or ground must include guardrails. These guardrails should be continuous from the bottom of the ramp to the top.

A ramp is a path with a slope greater than a 1-foot rise in 20 feet of a horizontal run

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ADA Stair Requirements

The ADA also has requirements for stairs in California, including the nosings, risers, treads and handrails. The key requirements for stairs are as follows:

1. Nosings

Under the ADA, the underside of a nosing should not be abrupt. It should have an angle that, from the horizontal, is no less than 60 degrees. The radius of the curve on the tread’s leading edge should not be greater than 1/2 inch. A nosing should project no greater than 1 1/2 inches. The following are the requirements for rounded and angled nosing:

  • Rounded nosing: Rounded nosings may be used if they have a 60-degree angle as measured from the horizontal. Rounded nosings should project no greater than 1 1/2 inches.
  • Angled nosing: Angled nosings may also be used with a 60-degree angle as measured from the horizontal. Angled nosings should project no greater than 1 1/2 inches.

2. Risers and Treads

All steps on a flight of stairs should have uniform tread widths and uniform riser heights. From riser to riser, a stair tread should not be less than 11 inches wide. For a flush riser, every stair tread should be a minimum of 11 inches deep with a sloped riser. An open riser is not permitted.

All steps on a flight of stairs should have uniform tread widths and uniform riser heights

3. Handrails

To be ADA-compliant, handrails should be placed on both sides of a staircase. A handrail should have the following features:

  • Between the wall and handrails, there should be a clear space of at least 1 1/2 inches.
  • On both sides of the stairs, handrails should be continuous.
  • An outdoor staircase should be designed with outdoor conditions in mind to prevent water from accumulating on the walking surface.
  • The gripping surface on top of the handrail should be mounted between 34 inches and 38 inches above the stair nosings.
  • Within its fittings, a handrail should not rotate.
  • The end of a handrail should be rounded or returned to the wall, floor or post.

If a handrail is not continuous, there must be a horizontal extension at the bottom and top of the run. At each top riser, a minimum horizontal extension of 12 inches is required. For each bottom riser, a minimum horizontal extension of 12 inches is required, along with the width of a tread. At the bottom, a handrail should continue sloping for a distance of a tread’s width from the bottom riser. At the top, an extension should be parallel with the ground surface or floor.


ADA Parking Requirements

ADA parking lot requirements in California must be followed whenever you construct, repave, alter or restripe a parking lot. To ensure compliance with the ADA, you must have a minimum amount of handicapped spaces that are properly marked. Additionally, your building entrance and any obstacles between handicapped spaces must comply.

California ADA requirements must be followed when you build, pave, alter, or restripe a parking lot

Requirements for Number of Handicapped Parking Spaces

Regardless of how many handicapped parking spaces you must have, the first handicapped space should comply with the ADA parking requirements for van accessibility in California. This space should also be properly labeled for asphalt maintenance. The number of ADA-compliant handicapped parking spaces you must have is dependent on how many total spaces are located in your parking lot:

  • Fewer than 100 total spaces: For this parking lot, you must have one handicapped parking space for every 25 spaces. Thus, if you have 50 total spaces, you would need two handicapped parking spaces.
  • 100 to 150 total spaces: In this parking lot, you must have at least five handicapped parking spaces.
  • 151 to 200 total parking spaces: For this parking lot, you need to have at least six ADA-compliant handicapped parking spaces.
  • 201 to 300 parking spaces: In this parking lot, you must have at least seven handicapped, ADA-compliant spaces.
  • 301 or more total spaces: For this parking lot, you must have one handicapped parking space for every eight spaces.

ADA Parking Space Dimensions

A handicapped parking space should be at least 8 feet in width. An access aisle for an automobile-accessible space should be a minimum of 5 feet in width. A van-accessible space should be 11 feet in width. For a van-accessible space to be ADA compliant, it must have an access aisle that is a minimum of 8 feet in width. An access aisle must span the entire length of the parking space and not intrude in the space. Fortunately, access aisles can be shared by adjacent parking spaces.

A handicapped parking space should provide access to the building via the shortest and most direct possible route. If curbs are in the path between the space and the building, they must have a ramp. This ramp cannot intrude in the access aisle or the parking space, however. If the route passes through a vehicular traffic path, clearly marked crosswalks must be present.

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California ADA Signs

A business must follow certain requirements for the designing, manufacturing and mounting of an ADA sign. Along with following federal rules, a business needs to ensure its signs also follow local and state laws. California has more distinct and strict rules for ADA signs compared to other states.

A business must follow certain requirements for designing, manufacturing, and mounting ADA signs

ADA Parking Sign Requirements

A sign that identifies a parking space should include the international symbol for accessibility and be mounted a minimum of 60 inches above the ground surface. This requirement is put in place so the symbol can be seen even when a vehicle is parked in a space. If a parking space is van accessible, it should include a designation for this.

There should also be tow away signs located at every entrance to the parking lot or adjacent to the accessible spaces. These signs should state that if an unauthorized vehicle is parked in a designated handicapped space, this vehicle will be towed at the owner’s expense. The sign should also include the address and phone number for the location where the towed vehicle can be reclaimed.

ADA Restroom Sign Requirements in California

Under the Equal Restroom Access Act, the design and construction of equipment and buildings are specified for restrooms, along with the signs that should be included. Nationally, only one sign is required under the ADA to identify a public restroom.

Under ADA standards at the federal level, restroom signage needs to have tactile text that denotes the gender or genders that have access to the restroom. The Braille translation also needs to be included directly underneath the tactile text. Pictograms that depict the gender with access to the restroom are optional, but are commonly found on these signs. Pictograms don’t need to be tactile, but they frequently are. Restrooms that are accessible must also have pictograms of the international symbol for accessibility.

The Equal Restroom Access Act specifies ADA requirements for bathroom design and signage

In addition to the federal ADA requirements, in California, two signs must be used to identify a public restroom. Featured on these signs are two geometric tactile symbols, but the signs do not include text, pictograms or Braille. These blank signs can be identified by California residents based on sight and feel:

  • Signs for women’s restrooms: These signs should feature a circle that has a 12-inch diameter and is 1/4 inch thick. The color of the circle should contrast with the door.
  • Signs for men’s restrooms: These signs should feature an equilateral triangle that is 1/4 inch thick and has 12-inch edges. The color of the triangle should contrast with the door.
  • Signs for unisex restrooms: These restrooms are denoted with signs that have a circle with a 12-inch diameter, and inside the circle, an equilateral triangle that is 1/4 inch thick. The color of the circle must contrast with the triangle’s color, the door color and the color of the surface on which the sign is mounted.

The edges of the shapes should be chamfered at no more than 1/8 inch or rounded or eased at a minimum of 1/16 inch. A vertex of the shape should be radiused at no more than 1/4 inch and no less than 1/8 inch.

Every single-occupancy restroom should be accessible to everyone, no matter their gender. For a single-occupancy restroom, a door sign should include a circle that is 1/4 inch thick and has a 12-inch diameter. Inside the circle is an equilateral triangle that is 1/4 inch thick and has 12-inch edges. On a wall sign for a single-occupancy restroom, there should be text that reads, “Restroom,” “All Gender Restroom” or “Unisex Restroom.” Under this text should be the exact Braille translation. Local codes may vary and require additional features on signs meant to identify restrooms.


ADA Bathroom Requirements

As of 2020, California ADA bathroom dimensions include the bathroom layout, path of travel, accessible accessories and accessible fixtures.

California ADA bathroom dimensions include the bathroom layout, path of travel, and accessories

Requirements for Accessible Accessories

An accessible restroom should include accessible toilet accessories, such as paper towel dispensers, waste receptacles, sanitary napkin dispensers and soap dispensers. Toilet accessories should be located in an accessible range of reach, which means that the operable part of the accessory should not be located more than 40 inches above the floor.

Accessories cannot impede the path of travel. An item that protrudes from the wall by more than 4 inches is considered hazardous and shouldn’t be located in an accessible path of travel.

Requirements for the Path of Travel

Doors to accessible restrooms should be accessible. These doors should be at least 36 inches in width. They should also not swing into clear areas of the restroom and should include lever-type hardware.

Accessible fixtures should have clear areas in front of them to allow access to wheelchairs. If a fixture is meant to be accessible, there should be a clear path of travel. Clear areas must be 48 inches deep and 30 inches wide. There should also be a clear space that allows for someone to turn around while in a wheelchair in the form of a circle with a 5-foot diameter.

Requirements for Accessible Fixtures

Under the ADA, a public restroom should have at least one accessible toilet and one accessible lavatory. If a men’s restroom contains urinals, there should be a minimum of one accessible urinal:

  • Accessible restroom toilets: An accessible toilet should be installed so that the seat is no lower than 17 inches and no higher than 19 inches from the floor.
  • Accessible restroom lavatories: Accessible restroom lavatories should be no higher than 34 inches from the floor. Below the lavatories, there should also be accessible knee clearance.

Grab rails must also be included to the rear and at the side of an accessible water closet. Under the ADA, grab rails should be mounted 33 inches to 36 inches above the floor. Flush control should also be located no higher than 44 inches above the floor. Separate facilities for those with disabilities are required when separate facilities are also provided for those who are non-disabled. For example, if a unisex facility is provided for the non-disabled, a unisex facility must also be provided for those with disabilities.

ADA Compliance Services From Maintco Corp

Maintco Corp is a full-service ADA accessibility consulting firm. We handle every step of the process from start to finish, and we work with the local safety and building departments to ensure your project is always within compliance. Our ADA consulting and retrofitting services include:

We handle every step of the ADA compliance process, from start to finish

When you work with Maintco Corp, you can have peace of mind of knowing we are reducing the risk of potential lawsuits and fines. Our thorough approach to finding simple solutions for difficult problems allows you to focus on the needs of your organization and customers. To identify and solve possible ADA compliance issues, we work with experienced building inspectors, architects and civil and structural engineers.


Contact Maintco Corp for Construction Services and ADA Consulting

At Maintco Corp, we are a licensed, full-service general contractor serving California and its neighboring states. We can increase project clarity, reduce stress and enhance efficiency for facility management and construction teams. Our primary goal is to provide outstanding customer service. Many companies offer separate services for equipment, maintenance, retail construction and food and beverage installation. At Maintco Corp, we perform all of these services collectively. If you need construction services, we provide the following services to our customers:

  • Infrastructure
  • MEP
  • Remodel
  • Re-fresh
  • Roll-outs
  • Estimating
  • Scheduling
  • Budgeting
  • Warehousing
  • Procurement
  • Pre-construction
  • Tenant improvement
  • Business conversion
  • Project or field management

We also provide warranties for our products and services. With three decades of experience, our diverse team of professionals, superintendents and project managers is dependable and knowledgeable. We strive to mitigate potential future issues in construction design that can cost money and time. Contact us today if you need a construction company that can also provide facility maintenance and ADA compliance services.

Contact Maintco Corp for construction services and ADA consulting