We often receive questions about whether a particular product is “ADA-compliant.”  Most buildings are required to comply with accessibility requirements, because of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and because of codes or standards adopted by a state or jurisdiction.*  There is currently no “certification” to ensure that a product meets these standards, but the following criteria are included in the accessibility standards to help determine compliance.

Operation: Operable parts of door and gate hardware must not require tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist to operate.  In most cases, lever handles meet this requirement.  Thumbturns may also be acceptable – most code officials use the side of their palm or the tip of a pencil to test the operation of the thumbturn.  Keypads that accept access-control codes are not specifically addressed by the standards, but they are typically acceptable because they do not require tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist to operate.

Mounting Height: Operable hardware must be mounted 34 inches minimum and 48 inches maximum above the floor or ground.  The ADA standards include some exceptions for the mounting height of existing locks, and for locking/latching hardware on swimming pool access doors.  Hardware that is operated only by security personnel such as prison guards or bailiffs is also exempt from some requirements.

Operable Force:  The force to retract the latch for door hardware is limited by the ADA standards to 5 pounds, maximum.  The International Building Code (IBC) references an accessibility standard called ICC A117.1 – Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities.  ICC A117.1 limits the operable force for door hardware to 15 pounds in a forward, pushing/pulling motion (ex. panic hardware), or 28 inch-pounds of rotational motion.

Keys and Electronic Credentials:  The accessibility standards address “operable parts” of door hardware such as thumbturns, keypads, turn-buttons, and of course, knobs and levers, but keys and electronic credentials used to operate locks are not covered by the standards.  Keys and credentials which require physical dexterity are not prohibited, however, accommodations may need to be made for employees who are unable to operate hardware using these methods.

Sliding Doors: Hardware for sliding doors must be exposed and usable from both sides when the door is in the fully-open position.  Typically, this means that door pulls must be surface-mounted on the face of the door, and there should be at least 1 1/2 inches of clearance behind the pull and on each side between the pull and the jamb in the open and closed positions.

State Modifications:  Some states have adopted more stringent code requirements.  For example, the California Building Code requires lever handles to return back to within 1/2-inch of the face of the door, and requires operable hardware to be mounted between 34 inches and 44 inches above the floor.  The Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) is responsible for determining compliance with the applicable codes and standards.

Egress and Fire Protection:  Although not specifically noted in the accessibility standards, most doors are required to unlatch with one releasing operation.  The model codes allow entrance doors to most residential dwelling units and sleeping units to have an additional nightlatch, deadbolt, or security chain which requires a second releasing operation.  Hardware installed as part of a fire door assembly must be listed for that purpose.

To learn more, check out the video, Decoded: Accessibility Requirements for Door Openings

The United States Access Board has published the Guide to the ADA Standards, which is available at access-board.gov.  The complete ADA Standards for Accessible Design can be downloaded by visiting ADA.gov. ICC A117.1 is available for purchase from ICCSafe.org.

*In most jurisdictions, 1- and 2-family homes are not required to comply with the accessibility standards, however, multi-family residential buildings must comply with the adopted codes and standards and with the Fair Housing Act.


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