Making Healthy Businesses spaces ADA compliant

Information
Some right-of-way permits through the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) let businesses and nonprofits use street and/or sidewalk space to serve customers. This guide helps ensure your space is accessible for people with disabilities as required by the ADA.
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Introduction

The Healthy Businesses permit from the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) lets businesses, organizations, and nonprofits use street and/or sidewalk space to serve customers or visitors.

This guide will help you make your outdoor space in the right-of-way accessible for people with disabilities as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and your permit. According to the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Disability and Health Data System, roughly 12% of Oregon adults have a mobility disability and 5% have a vision disability.

Remember, these rules apply even if your indoor dining or shopping space is already accessible.

This is just one set of requirements in addition to things like emergency access and traffic safety that are required for all Healthy Businesses permits. Please visit our Healthy Businesses design requirements and permit conditions page for more details or contact us with your questions.

If you have feedback about the Healthy Businesses program in general or a particular permitted location, let us know through our feedback form.

If you experience an access issue that you would like to see included in future guidance, please email us at PBOTBusinessToolkit@portlandoregon.gov or call 503-823-4026.

ADA compliance – Title II and Title III explained

Title II of the ADA, which applies to state and local governments, makes PBOT responsible for ensuring that our permitting programs do not impact accessible routes on the sidewalk or block curb ramps. This is why requirements for sidewalk and overhead clearance are part of the design guidelines PBOT rolled out with the Healthy Businesses program.

As commercial facilities providing public accommodations, permit holders also have an independent responsibility under Title III of the ADA to ensure the outdoor areas where you’re serving customers are accessible for people with disabilities.

The ADA requirements on this page cover many of the most common barriers to physical access that we see in and around Healthy Businesses spaces. Under Title III, permit holders are already required to meet these accessibility standards. PBOT is going to be working much closer with businesses to bring permitted spaces up to ADA standards. Beginning this spring, the Healthy Businesses permitting team will inspect installations and give permit holders written reminders and an opportunity to come into compliance with these requirements. Starting Sept. 1, 2022, these requirements will become part of PBOT’s Healthy Businesses design guidelines. However, PBOT may revoke any permit sooner than Sept. 1 if we visit your site more than three times for the same accessibility violation. For this reason, we encourage you to review this guide and make your space accessible as soon as possible.

For more information about Healthy Businesses or our timeline, visit the What is the Healthy Businesses permit? page.


Clear pedestrian paths

Applies to: all Healthy Businesses permits

PBOT requires a clear pedestrian path at least 6 feet wide along the sidewalk. This is known as the Pedestrian Through Zone in PBOT planning documents and the Clear Pedestrian Zone in Portland City Code 17.25, which covers Sidewalk Cafés.

Because some areas of Portland were developed before this standard was in place, there are some sidewalks that are narrower than 6 feet wide. In these areas, Healthy Businesses spaces are not allowed on the sidewalk. PedPDX is Portland’s citywide pedestrian plan for prioritizing sidewalk and crossing improvements across the city.

In some areas, where the sidewalk needs to accommodate a higher volume of pedestrians, PBOT may require a wider clear pedestrian path.

A clear pedestrian path ensures two people using mobility devices can pass each other and that every pedestrian, especially those who are blind or low vision, can avoid tripping or injury.

What’s required by the Healthy Businesses design guidelines?

  • A MINIMUM 6-FOOT WIDE clear pedestrian path of paved sidewalk must be clear and accessible for pedestrians along the entire block. This path should have nothing fixed and blocking the way like trees, tree wells, landscaping, news racks, or parking meters. Leave a two-foot buffer between bike parking and the clear pedestrian path to give room for parked bikes.
  • NO business-related obstructions in the clear pedestrian path at any time. This includes tables, chairs, tent legs, heaters, A-frame signs, carts, or garbage bins. In the illustration below, tables and chairs are only shown next to the building, but they may be allowed on the curb side of the sidewalk in some cases.
  • NO tents, umbrellas, or built structures over the clear pedestrian path.
  • NO electrical cords may cross the clear pedestrian path unless they are installed a minimum of 10 feet above the sidewalk or across the sidewalk under ADA-compliant cord protector ramps.
An overhead diagram of a sidewalk with tables, chairs, and potted plants next to the building face. A six-foot wide clear pedestrian path is marked along the entire length of the sidewalk, avoiding the furniture on the building side and fixed obstructions like poles, trees, and bike racks on the curb side.
The clear pedestrian path must have no obstructions. This means both fixed obstructions like utility poles, tree wells, or bike racks and moveable objects like tables, chairs, or plants (all illustrated here).

Additional recommendations

  • Position chairs parallel to the clear pedestrian path. Consider placing any moveable tables or chairs so that the sides of the chairs face the clear pedestrian path (see image on the left below). If the back of a chair faces the clear pedestrian path, customers are more likely to pull it into the clear pedestrian path, blocking it.
Two overhead view diagrams of sidewalk cafe set-ups. In the diagram on the left, which is marked "Recommended," chairs are placed so that their sides are parallel to the clear pedestrian path. In the diagram on the right, marked "Not Recommended," some chairs have their backs facing the clear pedestrian path.
Recommended placement of chairs in a sidewalk café so that chairs are parallel to the clear pedestrian path and have less likelihood of blocking it.

Overhead clearance

What’s required by the Healthy Businesses design guidelines?

  • In the pedestrian path: Overhead electrical cords or lighting must be at least 10 feet above the clear pedestrian path. No tents, umbrellas, or built structures over the clear pedestrian path.
  • Outside the pedestrian path: Freestanding temporary tents are allowed and must have a minimum clearance height of 7.5 feet above any walking surface. Tents may partially cover the sidewalk (maintaining the same minimum clearance over sidewalk). Tents may not be placed on the sidewalk next to the curb unless part of a tent in a permitted parking space.
Diagram showing the view down a sidewalk with a canopy set up in the parking space to the left and a table with umbrella set up on the right side of the sidewalk. Arrows show required vertical clearances above the sidewalk for these items and an electrical cord running 10 feet above the sidewalk.
Overhead clearance requirements above the sidewalk. Cords and lighting must run at least 10 feet above the path. No tents, umbrellas, or other built structures above the path. Tents outside the path must have 7.5 feet clearance above any walking surface.

Visibility and detectability

Applies to: all Healthy Businesses permits

Clear pedestrian paths can still be difficult to navigate for people with disabilities if the edges of the path are not well-defined or if objects protrude into the path above ground level. This is especially true for people who are blind or low-vision and anyone using a white cane. This section provides standards and suggestions for clearly delineating the edges of the clear pedestrian path.

What’s required by the ADA?

  • Make fencing detectable by canes. Include a toe rail to make fencing detectable to pedestrians using a white cane (see image below for placement). The toe rail must be at least 5 inches tall. Its bottom edge must be no more than 2 inches off the ground, and its top edge must be at least 6 inches off the ground.
  • Ensure that anything protruding from your fencing, like planters, does not block the clear pedestrian path. In the example pictured below, if a planter protrudes from the fencing and is at least 27 inches above the sidewalk, it may protrude up to 4 inches into the clear pedestrian path. An object like a planter whose bottom edges is lower, that is 27 inches or less above the sidewalk, may protrude more than 4 inches from the fencing. However, the space below the protruding object must not overlap with the clear pedestrian path (see image below). 
Three diagrams showing requirements for fencing to make it detectable by people using white canes. The first shows an example of fencing with horizontal slats. The fence includes a toe rail meeting the required dimensions. The second and third diagrams show planters that protrude from fencing. There are measurements showing that the protruding planters comply with the standards in this section.
Requirements for fencing. Fences must have toe rails, and any objects protruding from a fence must meet the requirements illustrated on the right.

Additional recommendations:

  • Furniture that contrasts with the sidewalk. Having tables, chairs, or planters that have a higher visual contrast with the sidewalk help pedestrians with low vision navigate the sidewalk even when that furniture is placed outside the clear pedestrian path.
  • Pedestrian diverters on the sidewalk at the edges of your permitted space. A pedestrian diverter is a low wall or barrier placed perpendicular to the path of travel to help establish a permitted space’s boundaries. If it is detectable by canes and contrasts visually with the sidewalk, it helps blind and low-vision pedestrians locate the clear pedestrian path. Pedestrian diverters should be:
    • At least 30 inches high, 12 inches wide, and 24 inches long (see diagram below)
    • Sturdy, stable, and heavy enough to not tip over or be blown away by the wind
    • Flush with the building at roughly 90 degrees
    • Distinctly visible with contrasting colors
    • Free of advertising, logos, or other text
A diagram showing a pedestrian diverter with plants growing in it next to a cafe table and chairs on the sidewalk, with the clear pedestrian path and minimum pedestrian diverter dimensions marked: 30 inches high, 24 inches long, and 12 inches wide.
Placement of a pedestrian diverter showing the recommended minimum dimensions.

Platforms and ramps

Applies to: All permits using space in the street such as parking spaces AND any other permitted space with a platform.

If your permitted space is in the street or involves any type of platform, you are required by the ADA to ensure access for people using mobility devices.

What’s required by the ADA?

  • Without a platform or deck. If your permitted space is on the road surface, without a platform or deck, there must be an accessible route to the space from the sidewalk. Here’s what’s required by permit type:
    • Plazas taking up partial or full blocks: There must be a temporary, ADA-compliant ramp from each sidewalk to the street level at mid-block. There must be an accessible path (at least 36 inches wide) connecting these ramps to any seating area.
    • Permits taking up parking spaces: if there’s no platform, you must have a temporary ramp from the sidewalk into your permitted area. The ramp must be at least 36 inches wide and must have clear landing areas at the top and bottom of the ramp (minimum 48 inches wide and long).
A diagram of a ramp down from the sidewalk into the street, with clear landing areas marked.
For permitted spaces on the street with no platform, you must provide an accessible ramp down from the sidewalk with clear, level landing areas.
  • With a platform or deck. If your permitted space is on the road surface and includes a deck or platform, the following are required for ADA compliance:
    • Slope. The cross slope (perpendicular to the sidewalk or curb) cannot exceed 1:48. Running slope (parallel to the sidewalk or curb) cannot exceed 1:20. For instructions on measuring slope, please see Northwest ADA Center’s Oregon 2010 ADA Standards Checklist.
    • Surface must be stable, firm, and slip-resistant.
    • You must have at least one accessible entryway that is at least 36 inches wide.
An overhead diagram of a platform in a parking space with maximum cross and running slopes marked and a 36-inch accessible entryway.
Maximum cross and running slope allowed on a platform.
  • For platforms flush and level with the sidewalk: If there is less than ¼ inch vertical separation between the platform and the sidewalk, no additional ramp or beveling is required. If the vertical separation is between ¼ inch and ½ inch, no additional ramp is required BUT the platform must have a beveled edge with at most a 1:2 slope. Any horizontal separation between the platform and the sidewalk must be less than ½ inch wide.
    Recommended: Keep vertical and horizontal separations between platforms without ramps and the sidewalk as small as possible. Even a ¼-inch lip can be challenging for someone using a manual wheelchair to cross.
Three cross-section views of a platform next to a sidewalk. The first shows that platforms may be up to 1/4 inch higher than the sidewalk without a ramp or beveled edge. The second shows that for platforms between 1/4 and 1/2 inch higher than the sidewalk, there must be a beveled edge with a maximum slope of 1:2. The third shows that there may be a horizontal gap up to 1/2 inch between a platform and the sidewalk.
For platforms that are approximately flush and level with the sidewalk, small gaps or differences in elevation between the platform and the sidewalk may be allowed, as long as they do not exceed these limits.
  • For platforms NOT flush and level with the sidewalk: If there is a vertical separation larger than ½ inch between the platform and the sidewalk, an accessible ramp is required.
A diagram of a ramp up from the sidewalk onto a platform, with clear landing areas marked.
For platforms that are higher than the sidewalk, you must provide an accessible ramp up to the platform with clear, level landing areas.
  • Accessible ramp requirements: The ramp must have a maximum slope of 1:12, be at least 36 inches wide, and have a firm, stable, non-slip surface. If the change in elevation is more than 6 inches, the ramp must have edge protection. If the ramp can’t be flush, there should be no more than a ½ inch gap between the ramp and any clear landing area. You must provide a clear landing area no less than 48 inches wide and 48 inches long at the top and bottom of the ramp. This lets wheelchair users stop and ready themselves before traversing the ramp.
Diagram of required dimensions for an accessible ramp. Ramps must be at least 36 inches wide, have a maximum slope of 1:12, and have edge protection (in the case illustrated here, a 2 inch minimum height bumper on the outside edges of the ramp).
Required width, slope, and edge protection for an accessible ramp.

Accessible tables and counters

Applies to: All Healthy Businesses permits with tables or counters

If you provide tables indoors or outside, you must make your tables and counters accessible to people using wheelchairs in each area of your business.

What’s required by the ADA?

  • For table seating, a minimum of 1 accessible spot for someone using a wheelchair in each area of your business and no less than 5% of seating in each area. Your indoor table seating counts as one area, a permitted space on the sidewalk is a second, and a permitted space in the street is a third. For example, if your business is on a corner and you are operating in parking spaces on both cross streets and one sidewalk, those are three separate spaces that must meet the minimum requirement separately.
  • For built-in counters or drink rails, a minimum of 60 inches (and no less than 5% of the total length) of the counter or drink rail must be accessible.
  • Surface height. An accessible table, counter, or drink rail must be between 28 inches and 34 inches high (measured from the top of the surface to the ground as in the illustration below).
  • Knee and toe clearance. Each accessible spot at a table or counter should be at least 30 inches wide and 17 inches deep and provide at least 27 inches of height below the counter surface. The area for knee and toe clearance must be completely open, with no table legs or pedestals, foot rails, purse hooks, or other objects. For drink rails or any other type of counter less than 12 inches deep, knee and toe clearance does not need to extend beyond the depth of the counter.
  • Space for an approach: Each accessible spot at a table or counter must have a clear floor space so that someone using a wheelchair can approach it head on. This clear space must be at least 30 inches wide, centered on and connected to the clear space under the table or counter, and at least 36 inches long, measured from the front of the table or counter. For drink rails, the combined clear floor space under and in front of the drink rail must be at least 30 inches wide and 48 inches long.
  • Fixed benches vs. open seating. Tables with fixed benches, such as picnic tables, are typically not accessible. If most of your seating is at picnic tables, you must have at least one table with removable chairs to accommodate people using mobility devices. You should also try to keep that table open for people who need it. You can encourage customers to leave the table open for those who need with signage, something similar to, “Please keep this table open for customers with disabilities unless no other table is available.”
Diagrams showing height requirements and minimum dimensions of clear areas below accessible tables and counters.
Side view (left) and top view (right) of required dimensions for accessible seating and clear floor space at tables and counters.

Access to all essential parts of the business

Applies to: All Healthy Businesses permits

Consider your space as a whole. Make sure any changes to how you are using your space (both indoors and outdoors) preserve access to:

  • Accessible parking
  • Accessible entrances
  • Accessible restrooms
  • Accessible routes to goods and services (in retail spaces)
  • Accessible counters and self-service items
  • Host stands (if applicable)
  • Accessible dining areas, both indoors and outdoors

Examples in Portland

Some Healthy Businesses permittees have already been working on making their permitted spaces more accessible. Here are some examples of clear pedestrian paths, ramps to platforms, and platforms flush with the sidewalk. Have an accessible space you want to show off? Send us a photo at PBOTBusinessToolkit@portlandoregon.gov and we might include it here as an example.

A photo looking down the sidewalk, with the street on the left and a bright blue building face on the right. Two cafe tables are at full capacity adjacent to the building. Two bike parking loops are installed on the curb side of the sidewalk. A person and their dog are walking down the sidewalk.
Café seating against the face of a building on NE Alberta Street. Chairs are oriented so that they do not encroach on the clear pedestrian path when customers push them back from the tables.
A photo looking down the sidewalk. There are two cafe tables and chairs against the windows of the building on the right. On the left, in the parking lane, there is a dark brown platform with walls and a transparent roof. The platform has a ramp down to the sidewalk. There are people sitting at tables on the platform and a person in a bright orange jacket walking in the clear area of the sidewalk.
This location on NW 23rd Avenue has permitted spaces on the sidewalk and in the parking lane. The platform in the parking lane is raised above the sidewalk level, but there is a ramp providing access from the sidewalk to the platform.
A photo showing the view from the sidewalk of a wooden platform with low walls and a transparent roof in a parking space. There are large, fixed planter boxes with mature trees in them on the sidewalk next to the curb. The tables on the platform are wide, with legs at the four corners and room for two chairs on each side. There are a few people sitting at the tables.
A parking space installation on NE 28th Avenue. The platform is flush and level with the sidewalk, and the tables have enough knee and toe clearance and moveable seating.