September 21, 2018

Access Board Meeting on Assembly AreasOn September 6 the Access Board held a day-long public forum on accessibility of assembly areas. The event brought together experts on the subject and various stakeholders to advise the Board on how to explain and clarify requirements in the ADA Standards in a technical guide it plans to develop on the subject. Accessibility consultants, people with disabilities, architects and designers, engineers, and facility operators participated in the meeting Attendees included representatives from the Hearing Loss Association of America and other advocacy organizations, the International Code Council, trade associations such as the National Association of Theater Operators and the American Society of Theatre Consultants, seating manufacturers, performing arts facilities, including Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center, federal agencies, and other entities.

The Board convened this meeting to collect information and input from the public on access issues and design questions and challenges that are unique to various types of assembly spaces. It will use this information in preparing a technical bulletin on assembly areas as part of its Guide to the ADA Standards, as well as its Guide to the ABA Standards.

In opening the meeting and welcoming attendees, Board Vice Chair Karen Tamley, stated, “We want to hear about access problems that people continue to face in this type of occupancy. We also want input on what is unclear or confusing in following the ADA and ABA Standards in the design and construction of assembly spaces.” The Board also welcomed suggestions on solutions to design challenges and recommended best practices for achieving accessibility to different types of assembly venues.

The discussion that followed identified questions that often arise in meeting requirements for wheelchair spaces, including criteria that can work at cross purposes, such as specifications for integration and for sightlines. It also addressed access issues and compliance concerns relating to companion seating, designated aisle seats, communication access, including assistive listening systems and captioning, and other features of assembly areas. In addition, participants raised issues and questions concerning specific types of seating and assembly venues, including bleachers and telescopic seating, movie theaters, and assembly spaces equipped with dining or work surfaces, such as dinner theaters and lecture halls. They also addressed questions that are driven by new design trends, such as reclining theater seats and tiered seating along stairs or “social stairs.” Common sources of confusion or oversight were highlighted as well, such as calculating sightlines, distinctions between aisles, aisle accessways, and other components of circulation paths, and how egress requirements impact the design of assembly spaces, including the location of wheelchair spaces.

The Board will use this information to prepare a technical bulletin on assembly areas as part of its online guides to the ADA and ABA Standards. These guides currently cover the first five chapters of the standards. They also include a series of eight animations on different topics covered in the standards.



Access Board Information Meeting on Assembly Areas
September 6, 9:30 – 5:00 (ET)
1331 F Street, NW, Suite 800, Washington, D.C.

Issues, Questions, and Best Practices to Address in Technical Guidance on Assembly Areas

Wheelchair Spaces


Companion Seats

Bleachers/ Telescopic Seating

Designated Aisle Seats

Communication Access

Assistive Listening Systems (ALS)

Captioning and Variable Message Signs

Sign Language Interpretation

Dinner Theaters

Places of Education

Other Topics

Accessible Routes, Aisles, and Access Accessways

Accessible Means of Egress (AMOE)

“Social Stairs”


Assembly Area Meeting Attendees

Access Board Members

Access Board Staff