Door Width Recommendations for Wheelchair Access

by Jennifer Mueller; Updated September 26, 2017
Rear view of a man sitting in a wheelchair on a wheelchair ramp

Businesses and office buildings that are open to the general public must meet the accessibility standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA requires at least 60 percent of building entrances to be wheelchair accessible if the building was constructed after Jan. 26, 1992. For buildings constructed before that date, property owners must comply with the same regulations provided they can do so without difficulty or expense.

Accessible Entry Doors

To meet the ADA accessibility standard, doors must have a clear width of 32 inches from the face of the door to the opposite stop. If the building has a separate entry vestibule with double doors, there must be 48 inches between the two doors. The doors must either open in the same direction, or away from the space between them. Additionally, the threshold can be no higher than a half-inch, and there must be 18 inches of clear wall space on the pull side of a swinging door. For older buildings with non-compliant doors, the ADA recommends widening the door or installing offset hinges.

Restrooms and Interior Doors

The ADA requires all rooms or other areas within a building to be accessible, with interior doors meeting the same standards as entry doors. At least one restroom must be wheelchair-accessible, with a 5-foot-by-5-foot handicapped stall. To achieve the required clearance, the ADA recommends moving any furniture or obstacles around the door as well as securing the edges of any rugs or mats to enable wheelchairs to roll over them smoothly.

Space to Maneuver

In addition to the width of the door itself, the area around the door must be clear to allow people in wheelchairs to approach and open the door, move through it, and close it behind them. The amount of space needed depends on the type of door, but people in wheelchairs generally require at least 36 inches of clear space to move into and out of the building, with a 5-foot diameter for any turns.

Opening Force

Door handles can be no more than 48 inches high and cannot require a tight grip or twist of the wrist to open. While lever handles would meet this requirement, round door knobs would not. If the door is simply pushed or pulled open, it cannot require more than 5 pounds of force to move. The ADA recommends trying to open the door with a closed fist to replicate opening it with limited use of your hands.

About the Author

Jennifer Mueller began writing and editing professionally in 1995, when she became sports editor of her university's newspaper while also writing a bi-monthly general interest column for an independent tourist publication. Mueller holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and a Juris Doctor from Indiana University Maurer School of Law.

Photo Credits

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