American ADA Requirements for Door Handle Heights

Woman in Wheelchair Talking

Since 1990, the US has been asking different businesses the guarantee that their public buildings provide the same services for all kinds of people, including people with disabilities. To ensure access for disabled individuals, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was created. And these guidelines help you build your own public building with accessible designs available for all people.

A number of regulations within the ADA pertain to hinged doors, gates, and all of their operable parts.

Some of the requirements affect:

  • Door hardware
  • Specific height from the finished floor or ground
  • Clear width for things like wheelchairs and walkers
  • Specifics on the face of the door
  • Space requirements
  • Grasping, pinching, or twisting regulations
  • Force required to open doors (aka opening force)

These requirements not only affect local businesses. But also for public transportation, places for public accommodation, private clubs, churches, etc…

Today, according to the ADA guidelines, we will talk about everything you need to know about building a compliant door opening.

Americans with Disabilities Act Requirements

The number one thing to consider is that the door needs to be wide enough to fit a wheelchair. Entryways should be at least 32 inches wide. However, hinged doors that are 32 inches (minimum), or even 34 inches, may not fit some equipment through it.

Next, the ADA clearance area space (or clear width) around the face of the door should be 36 inches. When it comes to double doors, the width should be 48 inches, and one important thing is that both doors should swing in the same direction, the clear width should be measured to 54 inches.

Another important aspect, in addition to space, is the weight of the doors and hardware you’re using. It’s common sense that the force needed to pull a heavy door fully open is more than light doors.

Key reminder: The end goal is accessibility and to comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. When you’re building, think about making entryways and each door opening as operable as possible — even if it means making doors bigger than 34 inches, the standard 36, and even 48 inches in width.

ADA Door Handle Height

The actual placement of the door opener is one of the most important things. If the hinged door is wide enough to fit a wheelchair and has enough clearance witdh area — it’s still of no use if people can’t reach the door handles.

So basically, they wouldn’t even be able to open the door and enter your establishment. So that’s why it’s so important to comply to ADA guidelines.

The first thing you need to know is that the handles need to have a simple design that is easy to handle and easy to grip; it can’t involve wrist twisting movements.

The average height is 48 inches above the finished floor or ground. Obviously, this is average, and there is no “standard height.” That said, it can’t be higher than 48″. Again, measured areas are from the finished floor or ground. Then match that to the door(s) for the home.

Bottom Line: Check to see if your height is above the 24 inches (minimum) mark and no higher than 48 inches above the floor. This pertains to doors 80 inches in height.

ADA Handles, Pulls, Latches, and Locks (Door Hardware)

All operable parts of the door are also regulated for accessibility. Common issues with disabilities include:

  • Unable to do any twisting of the wrist (door handles that require tight grasping/pinching are also difficult)
  • Inability to work normal door hardware and a typical latch
  • Difficulty with any door opening (it’s generally hard to open a door)
  • Hard to turn locks
  • Too much force required to retract a door for the individual
  • Door not opening widely enough (e.g. 90 degrees)
  • Loose grip unable to grab and turn handles
  • Difficult latch on doors
  • Unable to move doors from a closed position
  • Not enough space to open the doors

Things to Consider About Door Openings

A common handle is a u-shaped manual metal pull, with a typical latch. Individuals can either pull down or push up to release the latch. Then, use the handle shape to pull the door (or push the door open). The fade of the door then opens at least by 90 degrees, allowing the individual and any equipment they’re using to safely pass through, according to the ADA. Some openings only require 70 degrees. (Keep in mind the width of the door, too.)

If the door has a closer, it should take around 3 seconds to close. Also, the door can’t be too heavy. The maximum force that is allowed to use to open a door is 5 pounds.

Lastly, according to ADA, a door should provide access to the whole building or room attached to said door. If the building is connected by only stairs and not by wheelchair ramps, then that is considered a direct violation of the law.

The building should be wheelchair-accessible. In addition, it should provide a safe route to transportation stops, parking lots, sidewalks, and public streets.

Grasping, Pinching, or Twisting Considerations

Manual handles, pulls, and door openers must be accessible, easy-to-manuver, and reduce opening force on the doors of the building.

Many individuals with disabilities have to pull and push open doors using a closed fist. And many more only have one hand used to open doors and gates. The handle, latch, and other hardware you use on doors must account for these disabilities.

Not simply to comply with requirements, but to ensure residence and guests are able to move throughout the structure.

This law started operating on January 26th of 1992. Therefore, establishments built before that era don’t need modifications. As for buildings newer than that date, it is strictly necessary to avoid violating the law.