Mammalian switch/sucrose non-fermentable (mSWI/SNF) complexes are multi-component machines that remodel chromatin architecture. Dissection of the subunit- and domain-specific contributions to complex activities is needed to advance mechanistic understanding. Here, we examine the molecular, structural, and genome-wide regulatory consequences of recurrent, single-residue mutations in the putative coiled-coil C-terminal domain (CTD) of the SMARCB1 (BAF47) subunit, which cause the intellectual disability disorder Coffin-Siris syndrome (CSS), and are recurrently found in cancers. We find that the SMARCB1 CTD contains a basic α helix that binds directly to the nucleosome acidic patch and that all CSS-associated mutations disrupt this binding. Furthermore, these mutations abrogate mSWI/SNF-mediated nucleosome remodeling activity and enhancer DNA accessibility without changes in genome-wide complex localization. Finally, heterozygous CSS-associated SMARCB1 mutations result in dominant gene regulatory and morphologic changes during iPSC-neuronal differentiation. These studies unmask an evolutionarily conserved structural role for the SMARCB1 CTD that is perturbed in human disease.