Choosing Light Fixtures that are ADA Compliant

April 11, 2017

The Americans with Disabilities Act mandates that businesses and public buildings meet specific requirements for light fixtures. This Act was passed in 1991 to guarantee equal opportunities to public services, transportation, education, and employment for those who suffer from disabilities. ADA compliant lighting is required to ensure that disabled individuals can pass through buildings in a safe manner. Furthermore, ADA compliant lighting guarantees that buildings are easily accessible for those with disabilities.

About the ADA’s Light Fixture Standards

The ADA has established specific standards that contractors must adhere to when installing lights in buildings. Wall lights and wall sconces must adhere to the basic principles of Universal Design. This means the light fixtures should be usable and accessible for individuals regardless of their abilities, age or experience. ADA approved lights have a thin profile that allows them to fit in hallways, aisles, passageways, bathrooms, and other cramped spaces without intruding into areas where people walk or pass through with other means.

Light fixtures must be 80 inches above the ground in order to be ADA compliant. If a wall sconce is less than 80 inches above the floor, it can’t extend more than four inches out from the wall. Chapter 4.4 of the ADA states that a light fixture extending from the wall that is 27-80 inches above the floor cannot protrude beyond these four inches into any hallway, corridor or walkway. Other wall sconces are required to hug the wall quite tightly to allow disabled individuals as well as individuals who are not disabled to pass through without encumbrance.

Why ADA Light Fixture Standards Exist

The purpose of the ADA’s light fixture rules is to accommodate those who use scooters or wheelchairs when passing through building hallways and other spaces. If a wall sconce protrudes far enough, it will impede such an individual’s path of movement. Bumping into a light could cause an injury. Even those who use walkers or crutches face a risk from such a protruding light. It is also important to note that restricting light fixture protrusion from walls increases the amount of space in bathrooms for sinks, vanities, and grab bars. This extra space is important to those who use wheelchairs, walkers, and other mobility assistance equipment.

ADA Requirements for Light Switches

The ADA also has regulations for light switches.  Light switches must be easily accessible, meaning they are required to be located on an accessible path of travel. A 30-inch wide by 48-inch deep space is considered accessible for an individual in a wheelchair. Light switches must be 48 inches or less above the ground so someone in a wheelchair can reach them with ease. The light switch must be operable by a single hand and can’t require tight twisting, grasping or pinching.      


A violation of the ADA’s lighting standards can result in a serious injury that further disables an individual who is already hindered by a disability. This is precisely why the ADA’s light fixture regulations are enforced quite strictly.

If a public building has wall sconces or other lighting fixtures that are not ADA compliant, it is possible for the Department of Justice to file a federal lawsuit against the contractor or building manager. If it is determined that an ADA light fixture violation exists, the penalty could be upwards of $55,000. Subsequent offenses can cost upwards of $110,000.

If you are looking to improve your home or business, then Community Renovations is at your service. We are a fully licensed contractor that can modify just about any space for easy accessibility and independent living. Contact us today to learn more about our services.