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Oct 31 2016

Accessibility Requirements for Door Openings

Category: AccessibilityLori @ 2:10 am Comments (9)

Remember the great whiteboard animation videos that we’ve been producing about the basics of hardware and code-related topics?  Well, it’s time for me to write the script for the next code video.  Rather than waiting until the video is all done and pointing out something I missed, I’d love it if you’d review this script and give me your suggestions now, while there’s still time to tweak it (keep in mind that I’m limited to 800 words and I’m already over).  Here’s your big chance to be part of the process!  😀

Accessibility Requirements for Door Openings [Draft Script]

The International Building Code requires most doors in buildings addressed by the IBC to meet the accessibility requirements. The most commonly-used accessibility standards in the United States are ICC A117.1 – Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities, and the ADA Standards for Accessible Design.  Most multi-family residential buildings are required to meet the Fair Housing Act.  States or local jurisdictions may have their own accessibility standards as well.

ICC A117.1 and the ADA Standards include most of the requirements related to door openings in Chapter 4, with separate sections for manual doors and automatic doors. These requirements also apply to gates that are part of an accessible route.  Here are some of the important requirements of those sections – first, for manual doors…

Doors on an accessible route are required to provide at least 32 inches of clear opening width. With the door open to the 90-degree position, the clear opening width is measured between the face of the door and the stop on the strike jamb of the frame.  For pairs of doors, at least one leaf must provide 32 inches of clear opening width, minimum, measured from the face of an active leaf in the 90-degree position, to the edge of the other leaf in the closed position, or to the mullion.  The minimum clear opening height is 80 inches, with a minimum height of 78 inches measured to door closers and door stops.

No projections into the required clear opening width are allowed below 34 inches above the finished floor or ground. Projections into the clear opening width between 34 and 80 inches are limited to 4 inches.

To operate a manual door, someone using a wheelchair will require maneuvering clearance in order to open the door and pass through. Consult the accessibility standards for specific requirements related to maneuvering clearance, doors in a recess, and doors in a series.

Most thresholds are limited to 1/2-inch in height, with a slope not steeper than 1:2. Changes in level up to 1/4-inch may be vertical.  Changes in level over 1/2-inch must have a ramp with a slope not steeper than 1:12.

Hardware must be operable with one hand, with no tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist. Lever handles meet this requirement – knobs do not.  The 2010 ADA Standards also require hardware to operate with a maximum of 5 pounds of force.  In most cases, operable hardware must be mounted between 34 inches and 48 inches above the finished floor or ground.

The closing speed of a door with a door closer must be a minimum of 5 seconds, to close from a position of 90 degrees to 12 degrees. For doors with spring hinges, the door must move from a position of 70 degrees to the closed position in 1.5 seconds, minimum.

After the latch is disengaged, the force to push or pull open an interior door is limited to 5 pounds, maximum, with the exception of fire doors. This applies to interior swinging, sliding, and folding doors.  Fire doors must have the minimum force required to reliably close and latch the door.  Opening force for exterior doors may be addressed by the state or local jurisdiction, or by the applicable building code.

A manual door on an accessible route must have a flush, smooth surface at the bottom on the push side, with no projections or protruding hardware that could catch a cane, crutch, or wheelchair footpad. This is measured from the finished floor, 10 inches up the face of the door and must extend across the full width of the door.  Horizontal or vertical joints must be within 1/16-inch of the same plane, and cavities created by adding kick plates must be capped.  Refer to the standards for exceptions related to sliding doors, some all-glass doors, and doors that do not extend to within 10 inches of the floor or ground.

The accessibility standards do not require doors on an accessible route to have vision lights, but if a door has a vision panel or sidelight, at least one light must be located with the bottom of the light no more than 43 inches above the finished floor. The exception to this requirement is when the light is located more than 66 inches above the floor; these lights are typically for light transmission and not for viewing, and are acceptable.

Automatic doors are not specifically required by the accessibility standards, but doors equipped with low-energy automatic operators and power-assist operators must meet the requirements of ANSI/BHMA A156.19, and full-powered operators must meet the requirements of ANSI/BHMA A156.10. In addition, automatic doors are required to meet some, but not all, of the requirements for manual doors.

For detailed information about accessibility requirements for door openings, refer to the accessibility standards or visit

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9 Responses to “Accessibility Requirements for Door Openings”

  1. Eric says:

    I get asked on a regular basis about where low energy operators are required according to A117.1. Could you perhaps have a brief sentence stating that they are not a requirement but more of a convenience?

  2. Raymond Holman, AHC says:

    I wish we could educate architects that 2’10” wide doors hung on butt hinges don’t meet ADA clear opening width requirements. They never understand until you draw it out, which you’ll be doing.

  3. Jerry Rice says:

    Nice article. How about ‘reach heights’?

  4. Jared says:

    I’ve found that the lbs pressure to release hardware and manually push an operated door to be difficult to explain to clients. I’ve opted for electro hydraulic openers for this reason alone. Also, I used to get annoyed with some of the codes… I thought they were ridiculous. That’s wad until I began working for the local college. I see how Ada maneuvering clearance, door opening pressures, and etc really do affect day to day activity for those with disabilities. I very developed a new appreciation for these codes and some day would like to actively participate in advising in said codes…. (no clue how I would even get to that point)

  5. Chad Jenkins says:

    Hi Lori,

    I don’t know if you can add this or not but, I think the part about referring to the local administrative authority for fire door opening/closing force is not practical. Many administrative authorities would not understand your question. I teach new locksmiths to refer to NFPA80: All closing mechanisms shall be adjusted to overcome the resistance of the latch mechanism so that positive latching is achieved on each door operation.

    • Lori says:

      Great idea Chad!

      – Lori

    • Ron says:

      “Many administrative authorities would not understand your question.”

      I didn’t see that Lori posed a question in the body of the “Draft Script”
      or in any of her responses.. Please outline. 🙂

  6. Joe says:

    Hi Lori,

    Recently completed a fire door inspection for client based on NFPA80-2010 requirements. A consultant reviewed the report and stated that there is no mention of checking the door to open 90 degrees. I am fully aware of the code sections for door openings, however I do not see in NFPA 80 it is required to document this as part of an inspection. Any help would be appreciated.


    • Lori says:

      Hi Joe –

      I checked NFPA 80 because this didn’t sound familiar, and I didn’t find anything about documenting the 90-degree opening. The door would need to be opened during an inspection in order to verify all of the inspection criteria, but I don’t know of a specific degree of opening per NFPA 80, or a requirement for documentation of the act of opening the door to 90 degrees.

      – Lori

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