When you are opening a new business, particularly one that relies on public traffic, or modifying an existing one, it is important to ensure compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Beyond providing a handicapped-accessible wheelchair ramp, among the most important aspects to consider are the doors, which also must meet ADA regulations for applicable buildings.
The first thing to consider is the width of the door through which people pass. The opening needs to be at least 32 inches wide. If you have double doors, at least one of the doors needs to create an opening that's 32 inches wide.
The hardware of the door needs to be easy to grasp, even with just one hand. You need to be able to turn the door handle with a minimum of effort. The hardware itself must be at least 48 inches from the floor. As for the choice of hardware, both a lever and a push bar are acceptable under ADA regulations.
The threshold cannot be too high to prevent easy access with a wheelchair. For an interior door, the threshold can be 1/2 inch high. For an exterior door that slides, ADA regulations allow for a height of 3/4 inch. The slope of the threshold should be an inch of height for every 12 horizontal inches.
Force to Open the Door
To open the door, only a small amount of force should be needed. For a sliding door, a hinged interior door or a folding door, this should require only five pounds of force. The force to open a fire door, however, is determined by the building code in your community.
According to the ADA, automatic door openers must be low-energy, meaning, it should not take a lot of force to activate them. The device must activate within three seconds, measured from the moment you push or trigger the door to the moment it stops against the back check. If you wish to interrupt the automatic cycle, you need to be able to do so by applying only 15 pounds of force. It's possible to have automatic door openers/closers on double doors, but the opening must meet the ADA requirement (32 inches).
- office doors image by Ragne Kabanova from Fotolia.com