What you should know about ADA and series doors

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I’m sure you’re wondering when all my door posts will end.

You must understand, though, that as a wheelchair user I have gotten stuck in doorways on multiple occasions. It’s not fun. And it’s beyond frustrating to follow an accessible path to the entrance, only to be foiled at the doors of the building because you can’t pass through due to design and/or lack of proper maintenance.

Series doors are a nightmare when they aren’t designed or constructed properly, and then not caught by the codes punch list review (a.k.a. code-review checklist). Click here for an ADA Checklist for buildings and facilities. (Even though this list was published in 1992, it is still valid in the sense that it is considered a “safe harbor” for work done based on the 1991/94 standards. More on this in my next column!)

Below are a few things to keep in mind when dealing with two doors in series.

First, to ensure exterior doors aren’t too heavy for wheelchair users, the push-pull pressure — when possible — should be no more than 8 pounds of opening force.

Second, ensure that there is enough space between series doors for a wheelchair user. I am including both the 1991/1994 and 2010 ADA guidelines below. Although the 2010 guidelines do not state that the doors must swing in the same direction or away from the space between the doors, you will see that regardless of the swing the most important issue is the sacrosanct 48-inch clear space that should not be encroached upon by either door.

    From page 36 of the 1991 ADA Standards for Accessible Design revised in 1994:

    4.13.7 Two Doors in Series. The minimum space between two hinged or pivoted doors in series shall be 48 inches (1,220 mm) plus the width of any door swinging into the space. Doors in series shall swing either in the same direction or away from the space between the doors (see Fig. 26).

    Illustration: 91 ADAAG 94 edition

    From page 125 (Chapter 4) of the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design:

    404.2.6 Doors in Series and Gates in Series. The distance between two hinged or pivoted doors in series and gates in series shall be 48 inches (1,220 mm) minimum plus the width of doors or gates swinging into the space.

    Illustration: 2010 ADA Guidelines

The 2010 standard also shows ways to achieve the 48-inch clearance by having a door change the direction of the swing. Look at Figure 404.2.6 (b). It is a perfect solution when you are dealing with existing older buildings or space-constricted locations where you cannot expand the alcove space between the doors.

Other methods are:

    1. Remove the inside door
    2. Use two-way swing doors
    3. Add a power assist button that will open both doors. (All too often I see people forced to push a second button to open the second door while the first door is closing in on them.)

Lastly, most times the actual design is correct, but the hardware used on the doors can encroach on the required clear space both for the clear-width space and the 48-inch length space. This can often be missed by the final punch list review.

Trust me, there are solutions. When I worked with the City of Kansas City, Mo., we had to address several series doors in older facilities that did not meet ADA standards. We always found a way to fix them.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Best of luck,



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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.