Drinking fountains and knee clearance

Posted on - Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

What ADA requires of drinking fountains?

The ADA requires the following:

1) No fewer than 2 drinking fountains should be provided in a building (if they are located in the facility). One should be for wheelchair users, and the second one should be for standing persons that cannot bend down. This can be done with one unit like the photo shown below

2) If there are more than two drinking fountains 50% should be for wheelchairs and 50% should be for standing person. If there is an odd number, it is allowed to round down to yield an even number.

3) The drinking fountains do not have to be a single unit (hi-lo), but it can be multiple drinking fountains mounted at the required heights, and they can be distributed throughout the facility.

4) At the wheelchair drinking fountain there should be a floor clearance that has a forward approach and is 30″ wide x 48″ long centered on the unit, like shown in the drawing below. In addition, there should be a 27″ high knee clearance.

Since the clearance underneath the wheelchair drinking fountain must be centered, when there is a lower drinking fountain for wheelchairs next to a drinking fountain for standing persons, the clearance underneath the lower drinking fountain will sometimes be located partially underneath the higher drinking fountain depending on the distance between the two fountains.

The person using the drinking fountain is using not only the space underneath the wheelchair drinking fountain but also part of the space of the higher drinking fountain. Why is this important?

Like in the image above, this drinking fountain is located in a circulation path and it protrudes more than 4″ above the finished floor and since it is higher than 27″ a.f.f. (the high drinking fountain specifically), then it is not detectable by a cane of a visually impaired person.

One solution to correct the protrusion is to install a cane detectable apron underneath the higher drinking fountain which is higher than 27″ a.f.f.

The higher drinking fountain has a cane detectable apron mounted below the leading edge which aligns with the 27″ required knee clearance of the lower drinking fountain.
But sometimes the apron is mounted lower than 27″ a.f.f. This would not be a problem for the high drinking fountain since it is primarily used by standing persons that do not require a knee space to use the fountain. It is, however, a barrier for the person using a wheelchair because now the knee space that it shares with the second drinking fountain has been reduced to less than 27″ a.f.f. and not usable.

The cane detectable apron at the high drinking fountain shown in this photo was lower than the 27″ a.f.f. and it encroaches the knee space at the lower one.

This photo shows both the high and low drinking fountains with cane detectable aprons below it. Both do not have the proper knee clearance because of the apron

When locating a cane detectable apron keep in mind this requirement about the floor space needing to be centered. Any obstruction from the fountain adjacent must not reduce the knee space of the lower fountain.

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October 24 – 2 hr Barrier Free HSW class “ADA and Fair Housing Room by Room” 10:00 a.m. Dallas Design Center