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Mail Boxes – So How High Should They Be?

Janis Kent, Architect, CASp © September, 2013

Different regulations have varying requirements for installation of mailboxes. The US Postal Services also has a maximum height requirement but this is not in reference to Accessibility features. In order to determine installation requirements you will need to know which regulations need to be adhered to. In Residential projects there may actually be several regulations having jurisdiction over a project, so you would pick the one that is most restrictive and providing greatest access.

If we are talking about commercial or public installations, for instance, ADAS requires 5% of all mailboxes with a minimum of one of each type in an interior location to be accessible. This includes receptacles for documents, packages, and other deliverable items and is not limited just to post offices boxes, but can also include receptacles provided at schools for instance. Even though they are quiet on exterior mailboxes, this should be considered a site element and at a minimum be on an accessible route.

For residential projects, if publicly funded, ADAS requires one accessible mail box for each mobility unit. For HUD federally funded projects, UFAS basically states that common spaces, which they list mail boxes under, serving accessible dwelling units need to be on an accessible route, within reach range, and meet the requirements for operation. FHA also provides direction for exterior mailboxes to be on an accessible route and within reach range but is silent on the interior locations although when referenced to ANSI A117.1 mailbox areas are listed as a common use space that is required to be accessible.

With California, starting January 1, 2014, 5% of all mailboxes with a minimum of one for each type needs to be accessible for commercial and public buildings similar to ADAS. For housing that is publicly funded, mailboxes need to meet the ADAS requirements but in addition, California states that accessible mailboxes are to be provided not only for all mobility units but also for all adaptable units as well. If we are talking about elevatored residential buildings this means that all mailboxes will need to be accessible which translates to 48” maximum above the finished floor. Although, Chapter 11A of the 2013 CBC for privately funded multi-family residential does not specifically state requirements for mail boxes or mail rooms, it does state all common use areas are to be accessible for covered dwelling units.

Now, when we put all of this together, since the US Postal Service services the mailboxes in consecutive order, one can not adjust the height for an accessible mailbox, based on the unit number, by lowering the location making it within reach range. For this reason, consideration should be placed on having all of the mailboxes within reach range of 48” maximum. If the boxes are serviced by name instead, there might be more flexibility. And last, do not forget that typical keying for locked boxes needs to be adjusted as well since that requires tight grasping, pinching, and twisting of the wrist which could affect even those who are not mobility impaired.

Be aware that your local City or County may have additional requirements that are more restrictive than the State or Federal requirements. Also, this article is an interpretation and opinion of the writer. It is meant as a summary – current original regulations should always be reviewed when making any decisions.

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