Breaking Down Barriers: Demystifying ADA requirements for glass doors

Schematic of a top-locking ladder pull with hydraulic rail. These pivot doors with top-locking interior door feature 813-mm (32-in.) wide opening clearance, 22 N (5 lb) to actuate, 254-mm (10-in.) clearance above the finished floor (AFF), and are Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA)-compliant.

Ladder pull with lever turn
The ladder pull with lever-turn actuator replaces the standard thumb-turn, rotates 180 degrees without a push-button actuator, and must adhere to ADA’s operational guidelines. The lever pull handle must be designed and installed no more than 1220 mm (48 in.) above the finished floor (AFF). The margin of height is 965 mm (38 in.) minimum to 1220 mm maximum AFF, or 915 to 1170 mm (36 to 46 in.) AFF in California.

Staggered pull
As the most recent addition to ADA-compliant door hardware, the staggered pull offers a floor-locking option instead of top-locking while meeting accessibility regulations. It requires a compliance of 250-mm (10-in.) clearance AFF on the corridor side while allowing a full-length pull on the office side. The staggered pull design is available in both locking and non-locking ladder styles.

Top-locking pull
The top- or ceiling-locking ladder pull is the most frequently used door handle. Architects and designers make this selection based on ease of use and aesthetics, since this style can be designed in a variety of shapes and finishes. The ladder pull needs to be installed a clear distance of 65 mm (2 ½ in.) from the glass surface to the inside of the pull surface to allow for ease of hand movement. A bottom- or floor-locking ladder pull can also be used, as long as it provides a 250-mm clearance from the bottom of the door.

Other considerations for ADA-compliant pulls include rules for sliding door design, which require no more than 22 N (5 lb) of force to operate and have exceptions for spaces smaller than 30 m2 (300 sf).

Whether the door is hinged and opens inward/outward or slides/folds to the side, there must be a clear space to accommodate mobility devices.
Photo © BigstockPhoto

When codes collide
In addition to federal law, accessibility building codes can vary at state and local levels, leaving builders to consider—or, more accurately, ‘muddle through’—the different or additional accessibility requirements. Subject to individual interpretation, such gray areas can result in unfortunate, costly mistakes.

California, for example, is a state with its own unique set of regulations. In this state, top-locking, lever-actuated ladder pulls comprise the only approved design solution for ADA conditions. Additionally, the range of dimension of the center of the locking post AFF is 915 to 1170 mm (36 to 46 in.) specifically, whereas in all other states, this is 965 to 1220 mm (38 to 48 in.). Currently, no other states seem to be following its lead.

Enforcing compliance codes
Generally speaking, it has been a challenge for various industries to get a clear understanding of ADA accessibility requirements. As with most regulations, enforcement is up to interpretation as well as ongoing changes to the act by region. When designing pull handles, it is important to consider both national and state requirements.

Responsibility for compliance falls on many shoulders, and is therefore often a gray area. Assumptions may be made that the manufacturer considers ADA when designing, or that the architect or designer has a strong grasp of its requirements. When it comes down to final approval, doors and their hardware are inspected by local building officials and construction inspectors who are well-versed in federal and local building codes. They can inspect buildings at any time during the final installation and determine whether the building receives a certificate of occupancy (CO). Of course, their individual interpretation can either accept or decline installed hardware.

Leave a Comment

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.

Leave a Comment


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *