Breaking Down Barriers: Demystifying ADA requirements for glass doors

This sliding glass door system in Miami, Florida, features a 1219-mm (48-in.) non-locking ladder pull in brushed stainless steel (BSS) finish.

Door hardware
Door hardware must not require more than 22 N (5 lb) of force to operate and must be operable with one hand without the need for tight grasping, pinching, or turning of the wrist. By this requirement, round doorknobs are not accessible. The preferred handle is a lever or pull-bar style.

Door clearance threshold
The floor underneath the door is called the threshold, and it cannot be more than 13 mm (½ in.) higher or lower than the flooring or pathway leading to and from the door. Allowances are made for 19-mm (¾-in.) height, provided a beveled slope is placed on either side of the threshold to ensure a smooth transition through the doorframe.

Maneuvering space required
Whether the door is hinged and opens inward/outward or slides or folds to the side, there must be clear space to accommodate wheelchairs and other mobility devices prior to passing through the doors as they are opening and closing. In other words, a person in a wheelchair must be able to approach the door, turn the handle, and freely enter or exit through the door.

Closing speed
Door closing speeds can vary by door type and location. Interior doors with closers should take a minimum of five seconds to move from the open position at 90 degrees to 12 degrees from the latch. Doors with spring hinges need at least 1.5 seconds to close from a 70-degree open position. Closing times for automatic doors vary depending on the type of door (i.e. swinging, sliding, or folding), as well as the dimensions and weight of the door. American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A156.10, Power-operated Pedestrian Doors, covers the requirements for ‘full-power’ automatic doors, while ANSI A156.19, Power-assist and Low-energy Power-operated Doors, addresses ‘low-energy’ or ‘power-assisted’ doors. (Further reading available here.)

How ADA compliance has an effect on manufacturers’ design
Just as there are requirements for door size, width, and placement, there are special requirements for door pull handles. This hardware needs to be within easy reach of someone in a wheelchair or other mobility device. There must be sufficient space from the door surface to allow for the hand to grip the handle. Again, to avoid tight grasping, pinching, or turning of the wrist, doorknobs should be avoided when it comes to ADA compliance. Three approved ladder pull handle systems are:

  • the lever pull design;
  • the staggered pull design; and
  • the top-locking ladder pull design.

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3 comments on “Breaking Down Barriers: Demystifying ADA requirements for glass doors”

  1. Door clearance threshold says thresholds cannot be more than 1/2″ with allowances for 3/4″ w/ bevel. The ADA I’m reading (as published by the DOJ in 2010) says 1/4″ and allowances for 1/2″ w/ bevel. Please clarify.

    1. The DOJ has set their own standards which goes beyond the minimum. This is typical in most DOJ jurisdictions. You will need to design according to the building code that is locally used plus the DOJ building code requirements, whichever is most stringent with the rule is what will apply.

  2. There certainly are certain policies that may be different from one state to another. There should definitely be a reason for this but it surely is for the benefit and safety of everyone. I would just take this into account and make sure I’m aware of it. Thanks for sharing.

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