I answered this question a couple of years ago as part of a longer post, but people continue to ask so here goes…
“How much clearance do the accessibility standards require behind a door pull?”
Although many manufacturers’ catalogs show some pulls with a symbol indicating that the pull meets the accessibility standards and some pulls without the symbol, the criteria for this seems to have been set by the hardware industry. The accessibility standards do not currently include prescriptive requirements for the size, shape, or clearance for door pulls.
The only clue I have found is in the ADA Guide that is being published online, chapter-by-chapter (information on Chapter 4 is here). The guide states: “Bars, pulls, and similar hardware should provide sufficient knuckle clearance (1½” minimum) to facilitate gripping.”
1 1/2 inches is much less than what is shown as acceptable in most manufacturers’ catalogs, but it is consistent with the clearance requirement for handrails and grab bars. While a larger amount of clearance may be desirable for certain door-hardware applications, it is not required by the accessibility standards. Many manufacturers show 2 1/4 or 2 1/2 inches of clearance for pulls used in “accessibility applications,” but I’m not sure where that figure came from. Because of the lack of prescriptive information in the standards, code officials may relay on manufacturers’ catalogs for this information and may therefore believe that the larger amount of clearance is required.
If you have any experience with this, please share it in the reply box.