Well located, comfortable seating with good viewing positions are important for all building users.

Provision and location

Seating should be provided where building users need to rest, wait or carry out seated tasks, and where they are required for viewing purposes.

The opportunity to be able to stop and rest is very important to a lot of building users moving around the built environment. Seating is particularly important where any degree of waiting is anticipated.

Providing internal seating at the entry to a building gives an opportunity to rest and to wait for vision to adjust to internal lighting levels.

Where open captioning or sign language interpreters are being used in venues like theatres and conference centres, priority seating should be identified for those needing to use these services.

Seating allocated to people with assistance dogs should take into account the need for their dogs to rest clear of circulation routes.

Spaces allocated for wheelchair seating should have good sightlines without obstruction from the building structure. Wheelchair users should have a choice of seating locations to avoid inappropriate allocation such as at a funeral service where they are not family members.

Wheelchair users should be able to sit next to those accompanying them. Appropriate space should be provided to allow wheelchairs users the option of sitting next to standard seating, next to other wheelchair users or transferring onto appropriate seats.

Where fixed seating is provided and seats booked in advance, removable seating allows staff to accommodate wheelchair users in a range of locations.

Spaces allocated for wheelchair seating should have easy access to accessible toilets and step-free means of escape paths.

Finding seats in packed or darkened venues can be particularly difficult for everybody.

Design considerations

  • Provide seating where building users can be expected to wait for any time, and at intervals adjacent to but not within circulation routes.
  • Ensure seat rows and numbers are clearly labelled and easy to read in anticipated light conditions.
  • Ensure priority spaces are clearly identified and labelled.
  • Ensure spaces are possible for wheelchair users to sit next to standard seating and/or other wheelchair users.
  • Consider the space requirements for assistance dogs to rest clear of circulation routes.
  • Provide a range of possible vantage points to allow wheelchair users the choice of seating location.
  • Consider the possible effect of wheelchair headrests on sightlines of the seating behind.
  • Ensure wheelchair seating and vantage points are located where toilets and means of escape are conveniently reached by step free routes.
  • Shelter external seats from the weather where possible.

Design and features

People who are blind or have low vision need to be able to locate seating areas either tactually or using their functional vision. Seats should contrast with the immediate background and have features that are detectable by a long cane. Flooring surface changes can also indicate moving off the accessible circulation route to a furniture zone.

Seating should be designed to be sturdy and stable but easily moved using one hand.

Some seats may be difficult to get into or out of. The compressed seat height is particularly important as is the provision of arm rests. Seats that do not allow users to put their heels under the seat to rise can cause difficulty for some users.

Perch and flip down seats could be provided where space is at a premium.

Comfortable seating is important to allow users to rest properly. Seat arms, adequate seat width, back supports and adequate leg space are particularly helpful.

Dense materials that are in direct sun tend to warm up and retain heat. Where these materials are used for seating, they can reach temperatures which make them uncomfortable to sit on.

Design considerations

  • Ensure seat finishes contrast with the surrounding environment and arm rests contrast with seat finishes.
  • Ensure the seats have detectable features for long cane users.
  • Ensure seats are easy to move, have arm rests and heel space under the seat.
  • Ensure a range of seating designs is available to suit different capabilities, preferences and locations.
  • Ensure seating is designed to suit anticipated users, be comfortable for a reasonable amount of time and located in suitable positions.
  • Ensure materials that heat up above an acceptable temperature are not used for seating where they will be in direct sun.
  • Ensure materials that get extremely cold in low temperatures are not used for external seating.

This information is published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Chief Executive. It is a general guide only and, if used, does not relieve any person of the obligation to consider any matter to which the information relates according to the circumstances of the particular case. Expert advice may be required in specific circumstances. Where this information relates to assisting people: