Chapter 4: Courtrooms
The design requirements for ramps [Americans With Disabilities Act Architectural
Guidelines (ADAAG), section 4.8] are simplified when the total rise is six inches
(150 mm) or less; therefore courtroom stations must be designed with maximum six
inch (150 mm) stair risers if ramps are used. Access for disabled judges and court
personnel may be accomplished by ramps or lifts outside the courtroom, within the
restricted circulation space.
Hearing-impaired persons must also be accommodated. In some cases, a sound-
reinforcement system is sufficient; in others, a signer is necessary for proceedings
involving deaf participants. Courtroom layouts must place the signer within the
reader's field of vision and also provide the reader a view of the speaker. This
allows the participant to observe the speaker's gestures, facial expressions, and
other visual cues.
Wireless assisted listening systems (ALS), using infrared transmission, provide
flexibility and privacy in the courtroom. ALS controls and emitters must be
permanently installed and integrated with the courtroom sound system. For
additional information, refer to the "Barrier-Free Access" section of Chapter 3 of
Specific Design Elements
Judge's Bench. The height and area of the judge's bench expresses the role of the
judge and facilitates control of the court. The height of the judge's bench and other
courtroom stations is determined by the court. Generally, the judge's bench should
be elevated four or three steps (24 - 21 inches or 600 - 525 mm) above the
courtroom well. An additional step is recommended in larger appeals courtrooms.
Because USCA judges sit en banc or in panels, benches must be curved or angled
to allow them to see one another. For additional information on bench dimensions,
see Table 4.1.
The bench worksurface must be approximately 28-30 inches (725-750 mm) above
the floor level of the judge's station (i.e., normal desk height) and 30 inches (775
mm) deep. Space is provided for an ergonomically-placed computer that does not
obstruct essential sightlines. The judge's bench must be equipped with conduit and
casework suitable for computer installation.
The judge's bench has a raised cap around the worksurface. The cap holds papers
and contains electronic controls without obstructing the judge's view.
The judge's bench must be barrier-free accessible or adaptable. Sufficient floor
space and vertical clearance must be provided for wheelchair maneuverability.
Space is required for future installation of either a wheelchair lift built into the
bench or separate wheelchair lift, ramp, or combination ramp and lift built into the