ADA and Libraries

ALA's Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA, a division of ALA) maintains resources on libraries and ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act; see the excerpt from ALA Library Fact Sheet 11 - Building Libraries and Library Additions: A Selected Annotated Bibliography at --

ADA -- Americans with Disabilities Act.

See the online ADA resources compiled by ALA's Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA, a division of ALA), including the Library Services for People with Disabilities Policy. And see the Library Accessibility--What You Need to Know toolkit series of fifteen tipsheets, edited by Monique DeLatte.

One question always asked --

The minimum required space between the stacks for wheelchair access is 36 inches (see illustration below). The space that is preferred – and this word makes the difference -- is 42 inches. The guidelines are somewhat awkwardly worded in this regard, and so the illustration and the text are both needed to make it clear. See the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) on the U.S. Access Board website online --



8.1 General. In addition to the requirements of section 4, the design of all public areas of a library shall comply with 8, including reading and study areas, stacks, reference rooms, reserve areas, and special facilities or collections.

8.2 Reading and Study Areas. At least 5 percent or a minimum of one of each element of fixed seating, tables, or study carrels shall comply with 4.2 and 4.32. Clearances between fixed accessible tables and between study carrels shall comply with 4.3.

8.3 Check-Out Areas. At least one lane at each check-out area shall comply with 7.2(1). Any traffic control or book security gates or turnstiles shall comply with 4.13.

8.4 Card Catalogs and Magazine Displays. Minimum clear aisle space at card catalogs and magazine displays shall comply with Fig. 55. Maximum reach height shall comply with 4.2, with a height of 48 in (1220 mm) preferred irrespective of approach allowed.


Figure 55
Card Catalog

8.5 Stacks. Minimum clear aisle width between stacks shall comply with 4.3, with a minimum clear aisle width of 42 in (1065 mm) preferred where possible. Shelf height in stack areas is unrestricted (see Fig. 56).


Figure 56

Back to ADAAG

Clarification was provided on SURVEY FORM 26: LIBRARIES, preserved via the Internet Archive.

Is the minimum clear aisle width between the stacks at least 36 inches? (See Figure 56) (A minimum clear aisle width of 42 inches is preferred where possible. Shelf height in stack areas is unrestricted.)


You can contact the U.S. Access Board with any questions --
E-Mail: technical assistance on Board guidelines and accessible design