The US Access Board has added a guide to their website, which explains the ADA standards in detail.  So far, only Chapters 1-3 have been posted, and most of the door-related information is in Chapter 4, but there is a lot of good information relative to the basic ADA requirements.  There are also animations on the site which illustrate wheelchair maneuvering, accessible toilet rooms, maneuvering at doors, and accessible bathing facilities.  There are a few things to note with regard to what has been posted on the site so far, particularly regarding Chapter 3.  The “Common Questions” section includes these 2 questions and answers:

Must operable parts be usable with a closed fist?

Closed-fist operation is a good performance test but is not required by the standards. Many types of operable parts, such as pull handles, satisfy the requirements even though they may not be operable with a closed fist.

Are turn-key locks prohibited by the standards?

Key locks or key cards are not prohibited by the standards which apply only to the fixed portions of operable parts. Similarly, items dispensed by ATMs and fare machines, such as receipts, cash, fare cards, and vending machine products are not covered by the standards.

These answers are the same as the answers I’ve been giving when these questions were asked, but it always helps to have the US Access Board put it in writing.  There isn’t currently a required projection for door pulls, or code language that requires a specific amount of clearance behind the pull to accommodate a closed fist (here’s where I wrote about door pulls).  In the absence of prescriptive code language, some have applied the clearance dimension for handrails (1 1/2 inches) to door pulls.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not mandatory to have 1 1/2 inches of clearance behind a door pull unless it is a local code requirement.  I have been told by several accessibility experts that there should be enough clearance for a flat hand to slide through, but again, there is no code requirement stating that.

Keys are a tough topic to address, because the accessibility standards mandate operable hardware which does not require tight grasping, tight pinching, or twisting of the wrist to operate.  Keys obviously require tight grasping, tight pinching, and twisting of the wrist, so why are keys acceptable and knobs are not?  As the Access Board’s response states, the standards only apply to fixed portions of the operable parts (they are using “fixed” to mean permanent, not stationary), and keys are not a permanent part of the lock.  A modification may be required – for example, a proximity reader – if a person is unable to operate a keyed lock, but the standard does not prohibit keyed locks in general.

Another interesting item included in the guide is this section on Operation (309.4):

Operation from ADA Guide

My column in the May issue of Doors & Hardware is about the change to the 2010 ADA which requires hardware to be operable with 5 pounds of force.  I was originally told by the Access Board that they recognized there was a conflict between the opening force section (which says the 5-pound opening force does not apply to the force required to release the latch), and the operation section (which says operable parts must not require more than 5 pounds of force to operate).  The person I spoke to from the Access Board back in 2012 said she would recommend removal of the 5-pound requirement for hardware.  However, the guide reinforces the 5-pound requirement by using an illustration of door hardware with the explanation of this section.  If the requirement was going to be removed, the introduction of this guide would have been a good time to make that clear.

Check out the US Access Board Guide to the 2010 ADA Standards by clicking here.  I’ll let you know when the guide to Chapter 4 becomes available.

Meanwhile, let me know if you are running into enforcement of the 5-pound force requirement, or have decided to specify/supply products which operate with a maximum of 5 pounds of force to avoid future ADA issues.

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