One of the benefits for members of organizations like the International Code Council (ICC) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is that you can submit questions to be answered by ICC/NFPA staff. Although the responses are only staff opinions (not officially part of the code), I find it very helpful to be able to get additional perspective on the intent of the code or standard.
There is a similar resource for the ADA Standards for Accessible Design, and it is available for free – there is no membership required. This service has been in existence for many years, but in the past the people staffing the phone lines were not typically technical folks. That has changed…I have probably submitted a dozen questions via email to the U.S. Access Board over the last few years, and have quickly received responses from staff members who were familiar with what I was asking about.
Sometimes there isn’t a prescriptive answer in the codes and standards. For example, I recently asked the Access Board about the maximum closing speed of a sliding door (manually operated, not automatic). The closing speed limitations in the ADA Standards are specific to swinging doors: Door closers and gate closers shall be adjusted so that from an open position of 90 degrees, the time required to move the door to a position of 12 degrees from the latch is 5 seconds minimum. While most non-automatic sliding doors are manually opened and closed, there are some sliding doors that are self-closing – particularly sliding fire doors. My question revealed a potential code change proposal to address the missing information, and in the meantime, the staff member recommended that the door should close without excessive speed or force.
If you can’t find the answer to an accessibility question on iDigHardware, give the U.S. Access Board a try. The phone number and email address for technical assistance can be found here, and there is also a fantastic online guide to the ADA standards on the U.S. Access Board website. You can download the ADA Standards for free by visiting Access-Board.gov.