Assembly Seating

Posted on - Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

One of the most common areas of law suits are in movie theaters and assembly seating.  In order to avoid these, an understanding of what the ADA requires will be needed.  This newsletter will give you a brief overview of the minimum requirements of seating.

Section 221 and 802  in the 2010 ADA and the ABA Standards discusses what assembly areas are required to be accessible.  It states that within assembly areas shall provide wheelchair spaces, companion seats and designated aisle seats which must comply. Lawn seats are also required to comply in an assembly area by being connected to an accessible route.

In general, in order to determine how many wheelchair spaces we are required to provide, we follow the Table


This table applies to general seating in assembly spaces, as well as luxury boxes, club boxes, and suites in arenas, stadiums and grandstands.  Team player seating will not follow this table, but at least one wheelchair space must be provided where team players sit.


Team Player Seating

Section 221 also discusses dispersion of the accessible seating (horizontal and vertical), companion seats and designated aisle seats.  The rest of the newsletter will discuss companion seats.

Companion Seating

Section 802.3 in the 2010 ADA Standards discusses companion seats.

Companion seats are seats for able bodied companions that will sit next to the person in a wheelchair.  Each wheelchair seat will require one companion seat.

When locating these companion seats, we need to remember is that the seat for the companion should be aligned with the wheelchair space and have a shoulder to shoulder alignment.  This is achieved by placing the front of the floor space for the wheelchair 36″ in front of the companion seat like the figure below.


This figure shows a 60″ deep wheelchair space, but it can also be a 48″ space depending on the approach.  Refer to figures 802.1.2 and 802.1.3 in the ADA Standards for the different depths and widths required (see below)



Companion seats must be equivalent in size, quality, comfort and amenities as the other seating in the immediate area.

Examples of Assembly Seating

Besides the obvious theater seating, assembly seating are also found in classrooms.  The one difference is that the seating won’t be dispersed by price.


Another place where assembly seating is found are in sports venues.  Even indoor gymnasiums that have fixed bleachers would be required to comply with the assembly seating section.  Any sports venue, including court sports and arena sports that have fixed seating for spectators will be required to comply.




One obscure example of assembly seating are exterior benches.  These do not follow the requirements for section 903 (benches in a dressing room). These would follow the assembly seating in section 802.  But because assembly seating requirements begin when you have four seats, if you have three or less benches in an outdoor plaza or park then they would not have to follow these standards.


Upcoming Continuing Education Opportunities

Below are some upcoming seminars where I’ll be teaching for AIA approved CEU:

May 7th- TAID : “How to apply the ADA on Interior Spaces”

May 7th AIA Dallas: 12-1 “Title II ADA- How it affects your design”

June 20th: AIA National convention in Denver: “TH315 Building Leaders Creating True Sustainable Environments: How the ADA and LEED work together

August 15: Metrocon13 in Dallas Texas: “Applying the ADA in Interiors Spaces”

November 7: TSA Convention in Ft. Worth

NOTE: Our offices will be closed on April 1st and 2nd and we’ll be performing an inspection out of town on April 3rd.  

Announcing the release of our second book: “Applying the ADA” published by Wiley.  It is available for sale now.


If you want to learn more about the new Standards, The ADA Companion Guide explains the 2004 ADAAG Guidelines  with commentary and explanations throughout.  The 2004 Guidelines were adopted by the DOJ to create the 2010 Standards and by Texas to create the 2012 TAS.  This book explains the technical requirements for both.

If you have any questions about these or any other topics, please feel free to contact me anytime.
Marcela Abadi Rhoads, RAS #240
Abadi Accessibility
214. 403.8714