Situated In Auditorias Rear 70 Percent
ANSI 117.1 Committee Adopts Revised Standard
For Stadium-Style Cinema Wheelchair Seating
by Steven John Fellman
NATO Washington Counsel
NATO and a group of disability activists, codes officials
and Access Board representatives agreed on a consensus standard
for wheelchair seating in stadium-style theatres. The consensus
standard would permit wheelchair locations to be placed
on a riser, in one location, in the rear 70 percent of the
seats of an auditorium of under 300 seats.
American National Standards Institute (ANSI) establishes
consensus standards for many products, structures, designs
and equipment. ANSI standards run the gamut from medical
devices to construction materials to swimming pools. One
of the long-running ANSI standards is Standard 117.1, which
covers accessible design for persons with disabilities.
ANSI 117.1 was used as the basis for the Uniform Federal
Accessibility Standards (UFAS), which in turn formed the
basis for the Americans With Disabilities Act Accessibility
Guidelines (ADAAG), the federal regulations establishing
the standards that movie theatres must meet under the act.
consensus position is fairly simple. In motion picture
theatre auditoria of less than 300 seats where wheelchair
spaces are not dispersed, the wheelchair location
shall be placed on a riser in the rear 70 percent
of the seats of the auditorium. If you place the wheelchair
location in the middle two quartiles of any one row,
no horizontal dispersion is required.
three years, ANSI proceeds to revise and update its standards.
Two years ago, ANSI formed a task force to specifically
look at accessibility issues involving assembly areas. It
was noted that persons in wheelchairs had expressed concerns
that existing designs presented problems with accessibility
in arenas where standing spectators often block the views
of wheelchair patrons. Another problem was presented by
folding bleachers in facilities such as high school auditoriums
and football stadiums. Again, wheelchair patrons had difficulty
in accessing these facilities. A third area of concern was
stadium-style motion picture theatres. Persons with wheelchairs
expressed unhappiness about the wheelchair seating locations
in certain theatres. They indicated the need to have wheelchair
locations placed in an area where the wheelchair patron
could take advantage of the benefits of stadium-style seating
and where two wheelchair patrons could sit next to each
other and where there would be adequate companion seating.
with these issues, the ANSI 117 Committee created an Assembly
Task Force. The task force included representatives of disability
rights groups such as the Paralyzed Veterans of America,
the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans and the Disability Rights
Education and Defense Fund. Government representatives included
code officials from Montgomery County, Maryland, the State
of Maryland, the State of Texas and representatives of the
Access Board. Several architects and engineers specializing
in disability access issues and a representative of the
Boca code group joined the task force. Business interests
represented included the arena and stadium developers, amusement
and recreational park operators, legitimate theatres and
NATO as the representative of the American motion picture
theatre exhibition industry.
of the task force were established to consider each specific
type of assembly area. I was asked to chair the subgroup
dealing with motion picture theatres.
the past two years our group met many times. It was not
easy to reach a consensus. At times I believed that no consensus
would be reached with regard to the location of wheelchair
seating in stadium-style motion picture theatres. However,
in September we did reach a consensus. The motion picture
subgroup consensus position was unanimously approved by
the Assembly Task Force Group and presented to the entire
ANSI 117.1 Committee. The position was presented as a consensus
position adopted by all members of the task force. Disability
rights groups, code officials, and NATO all spoke in favor
of the consensus position and the position was unanimously
adopted by the full ANSI Committee. The consensus position
will go through the final ANSI approval process this winter
and is expected to be published as a revised ANSI standard
at the end of January 2003.
consensus position is fairly simple. In motion picture theatre
auditoria of less than 300 seats where wheelchair spaces
are not dispersed, the wheelchair location shall be placed
on a riser in the rear 70 percent of the seats of the auditorium.
If you place the wheelchair location in the middle two quartiles
of any one row, no horizontal dispersion is required.
exactly does this mean? Assume you have a theatre auditorium
with 18 rows of 12 seats per row. All of the rows are on
risers. Your auditorium has 216 seats. Thirty percent of
216 seats is 65 seats. You must therefore have at least
65 seats in front of the row in which the wheelchair seating
is located. The wheelchair seating can be in any row from
row seven to 18. Assume the same configuration where the
first six rows of the theater are sloped floor seating and
the last 12 rows are on risers. There is a cross aisle between
the sixth row and the seventh row. In the first six rows
there are 72 seats. The wheelchair seating may be located
in the seventh row, which is the first row of the auditorium
on a riser or in any row behind row seven.
ANSI 117 Revised Standard will be considered for inclusion
in the new International Building Code as soon as it is
finalized. It represents a consensus position. However,
it is a position that may not be accepted by the Department
of Justice when the Department of Justice revises the ADAAG.
NATO Codes Committee will discuss the ANSI position in detail
at its next meeting.