Problem door widths continued

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Author’s note: First, I must give you a correction on my article entitled “Finally: new and improved guidelines” about the new 2010 ADA regulations. The 48-inch wide sidewalks are not required for facilities, just actual public sidewalks. Facility sidewalks can still be 36 inches wide for the pedestrian access route.

The new Public Rights-of-Way Accessibility Guidelines including the 48-inch-wide Pedestrian Access Route (PAR) are not in effect at this time. The Access Board is awaiting comments before publishing the final PROWAG standards.

This month, I am returning to the discussion about door approaches. My last article about doors (‘Problem door widths,’ June 2011) focused on the actual 32-in. wide clearance width required for passing through doorways. I tried to show the different situations that often prevent achieving the standard and solutions.

It’s important to know the clearances required for opening doors – both for pushing and pulling into an occupied space. All graphics below are from the 1998 ADAAG Manual for State and Local Governments, “Chapter 4.13 – Doors.”

(See the latest supplements to the Manual at

Pulling doors open

The following pictures illustrate space requirements for pulling a door open from a straightforward approach.


Side approach clearances are based on:

1) swing of the door,
2) direction of approach (hinge or latch),
3) provision of closers & sometimes latches.

Usually for pulling a door open, the best approach is from the latch side. For pushing a door, the best approach is from the hinge side as shown in the following graphics.


The following graphics show what I call the “crooked back dogleg approach.” This style is used often for restroom entrances and some entrances into facilities. Please pay attention to the minimum widths.

I personally dislike this type of approach, since all too often the doors’ opening pressures do not meet the maximum 5 lbs. of force (see 4.13.11 Door Opening Force) requirement. I suggest that for restroom entrances, the best solution is eliminating the doors – as long as privacy is addressed. Alternatively, doors could be kept open and only closed at night, if all facility doors must be locked.

I have been trapped in this style since, all too often, the pass-through corridor does not meet the width and depth clearances as shown in the following graphics.


Pushing doors open

The following graphics show the requirements for the push-side maneuvering space.


According to the 1998 ADAAG Manual for State and Local Governments:

    “Latch-side clearance is needed on the push side to be able to operate a latch and maneuver through the door against the force of a closer. The minimum required push-side space also is dependent on the approach direction.”

NOTE: An exercise for you. Sit in a chair (preferably a wheelchair) and try to pull open the door. Notice how much side clearance you need to open the door. Try using only your baby finger to pull open the door, to understand the importance of the no greater than 5 lbs. push/pull pressure of opening a door.

Next month I will address accessibility of series doors.



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About the Blogger

Michele Ohmes

thumbnail image Michele S. Ohmes is an Americans with Disabilities Act specialist and wheelchair user who works with public works departments, facility managers, and contractors. Her design manual — ADA and Accessibility: Let's Get Practical — is available on CD-ROM through the American Public Works Association's Web site. Author's note: Michele & Associates does not render legal advice and has no enforcement authority regarding the ADA or other federal disability-rights legislation.