News from Northwest ADA Center – Idaho

As we make the move away from plastic, finding clean drinking water out in public means we need drinking fountains. Getting a drink or filling a water bottles is something we can appreciate on a hot day. This includes those of us who navigate the world in wheelchairs or other means of mobility assistance. 

The ADA provides standards that apply to the installation of drinking fountains. A few basic space requirements make it easier to safely get a drink at a public drinking fountain. That means there needs to be adequate space for easy access and movement in three dimensions.

1. Adequate floor space.  There needs to be room to guide a wheelchair around the fountain. A clear floor space of a minimum of 30 inches from the front edge, and 24 inches on either side of the unit for a total of 48 inches. This space needs to be clear and unobstructed even by temporary things like signage or trash cans. A person needs to access the fountain without bumping into something or getting stuck in a space that is too small.

2. The right height. It may seem obvious, but someone in a seated position may not be able to access a drinking fountain spout that is installed at a height of 38 to 43 inches. Instead, ADA guidelines say an accessible drinking fountain must be installed so the spout is no more than 36 inches from the floor. This refers to the finished floor. You can’t take the measurement from a sub-floor when measuring the height of the spout.

3. Going knee deep. The other part in three dimensional design is the depth for knee space. To be barrier free it must also include the depth needed for someone seated in a wheelchair to fit their knees under the unit, something a standing person would not need to consider. The clear space under the fountain must be j a minimum of 27 inches from the floor to the bottom of the unit. This includes an 8 inch depth so a person in a chair can wheel up to the unit and access the spout from a seated position.

Personal independence is important for mental health, well-being, and self-esteem for all of us Following these standards ensures people who use wheelchairs and other devices have easy access in public spaces. 



For more information about the ADA contact:

Dana Gover, MPA, and ACTCP Certification, ADA Training and Technical Assistance Coordinator 

For more information about ADA Technical Assistance visit the NW ADA Center Idaho website:
Phone: Voice and Text 208-841-9422
Idaho Relay Service: 7