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7 minutes

ADA Requirements for Doors: Standards and Compliance

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), doors are not just barriers or access points; they represent essential components of accessible design, ensuring equal access for all. Understanding door requirements as outlined in the ADA is essential for architects, builders, and property owners who want to create environments that are more inclusive.

Doors, within the context of the ADA, encompass a broad spectrum of entrances, including manual doors and gates. However, compliance extends beyond functionality.

Manual doors and gates are the foundation of ADA compliance. However, as accessibility standards have evolved, so did the expectations surrounding door design.

For example, recessed doors are embedded, offering shelter from the elements, but still need to be accessible. There are also doors and gates in series, which offer multiple entry points. Synchronized operation is required to cater to all users, including those with disabilities.

In this comprehensive guide, we take a deep dive into the intricacies of ADA requirements for doors, exploring standards, compliance measures, and best practices.

You will also be able to download a handy door accessibility checklist at the end of this guide.

What Are the ADA Requirements for Doors?

Bathroom doors should meet the following ADA requirements:

  • Clear Width: Bathroom doors must have a width of at least 32 inches (815 mm) when the door is open to 90 degrees.
  • Maneuvering Clearance: The ADA requires a clear space of at least 30 inches (760 mm) by 48 inches (1220 mm) in front of the bathroom door to allow for maneuvering.
  • Thresholds: Door thresholds should be no higher than 0.5 inches (13 mm) in height for exterior doors and 0.25 inches (6.4 mm) for interior doors.
  • Hardware: Door hardware should be operable with a closed fist or with minimal effort.
  • Locks: Locking mechanisms on bathroom doors should be operable with a closed fist or with minimal effort.

Any business or establishment that provides goods, services, or accommodations to the public needs to ensure that their doors and entrances comply with ADA standards.

Failure to do so may result in legal penalties and lawsuits as well as barriers to entry for people with disabilities, negatively impacting your business’s reputation and even your bottom line.

Let’s get into some of the specifics when it comes to ensuring the doors of your building are accessible and meet the necessary ADA standards.

Door Hardware

Accessible door hardware plays an important role in facilitating entry and navigation for people with various disabilities.

Accessible door hardware accommodates people who rely on wheelchairs or mobility aids by making doors easier to operate. Lever handles and other accessible hardware designs also enable people with limited hand strength or dexterity to operate doors more easily.

Users with visual impairments also benefit. Contrast between door hardware and surrounding surfaces makes it easier for people with visual impairments to locate and operate doors more independently.

Let’s look at the specific ADA requirements when it comes to door hardware:

  • Lever Handles: ADA guidelines specify that door handles should be operable with a single hand and without tight grasping, pinching, or twisting. The height range for operable parts is typically between 34 inches (865 mm) and 48 inches (1220 mm) above floor level.
  • Hardware Shape: The ADA recommends that door hardware have smooth surfaces and rounded edges to minimize the risk of injury.

Accessible Door Hardware

Materials such as stainless steel, brass, and aluminum are commonly used for door hardware due to their durability and aesthetic appeal. And, while the choice of material itself may not directly impact ADA requirements, factors such as texture, grip, and finish can affect usability for people with disabilities.

For instance, smooth finishes and ergonomic designs are preferable to rough or sharp edges that could cause discomfort or are difficult to use. Additionally, materials that are less prone to corrosion and can maintain their appearance over time are ideal for ensuring long-term accessibility.

Closing Speed

People who use mobility aids such as wheelchairs, walkers, or crutches may require additional time and space to get through doorways. Rapidly closing doors can present obstacles and safety hazards, potentially causing collisions or entrapment.

Doors that close too quickly can also disrupt a visually impaired person’s ability to safely assess and respond to their surroundings, increasing the risk of accidents or injury.

People with cognitive disabilities also benefit. Rapidly closing doors can create confusion and anxiety, impeding their ability to safely enter or exit spaces without assistance.

The ADA Standards for Accessible Design recommend that doors equipped with automatic closing devices should close slowly enough to allow people with disabilities to safely enter or exit without being caught or struck by the closing door.

Opening Force

Paying attention to door opening force benefits people with a range of disabilities, including those with mobility limitations. People with conditions such as arthritis, muscular dystrophy, or spinal cord injuries may have limited hand strength or mobility, making it difficult to exert force to open doors.

Older adults may also experience age-related changes in strength, flexibility, and dexterity, making it difficult to open doors that require excessive force.

The ADA specifies that interior hinged doors shouldn’t require more than 5 pounds (2.26 kg) of force to operate, while exterior doors should not exceed 8.5 pounds (3.9 kg).

Accessible door opening force

It’s also important to remember that door materials can impact door opening force. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Weight: Heavier doors may require more force to open. Selecting lightweight materials such as aluminum or fiberglass can help reduce door weight and make it easier to operate.
  • Friction: The surface texture and finish of door materials can affect the amount of force required to open the door. Smooth, low-friction materials such as stainless steel or polished wood can reduce friction and make it easier to open doors with minimal effort.
  • Ergonomics: The design and shape of door handles and hardware can also impact door opening force. Lever handles, for example, are often easier to operate than knob handles, especially for people with limited hand strength or dexterity.

Side Lights

Making doors more visible is another key factor to consider when looking to comply with ADA requirements.

People with vision impairments may rely on visual cues to navigate through spaces. Door sidelights can provide additional lighting and visual cues, enhancing their independence.

Here are the requirements to be aware of when adding sidelights to doors:

  • Glare and Reflection: While not specifically mentioned in the ADA, glare and reflection from door sidelights should be considered to minimize visual discomfort for people with sensory processing disorders and light sensitivities. This may involve using window treatments or selecting glass with coatings to reduce glare and improve visibility.
  • Contrast: Providing adequate contrast between door sidelights and surrounding surfaces can help people with visual impairments identify and navigate doorways more easily. Consider using contrasting finishes or materials for door frames, sidelight frames, and adjacent walls to enhance visibility.

Smooth Bottom Surfaces

Even the bottom surfaces of doors matter when it comes to complying with ADA requirements.

People who rely on mobility aids such as wheelchairs, walkers, or canes may have difficulty navigating doorways with uneven or obstructed bottom surfaces. Clear and distinct changes in floor elevation, as well as contrasting colors or textures, also help people with visual impairments detect doorways and avoid tripping hazards.

Here are the ADA requirements you would need to meet for compliance purposes:

  • Floor Surfaces: The area immediately adjacent to doorways should have a level, slip-resistant surface to ensure stable footing for people entering or exiting spaces. Any changes in floor elevation should be gradual and clearly marked to alert users with visual impairments and prevent tripping.
  • Floor Mats: If floor mats are used near doorways, they should be securely installed and have tapered edges to prevent tripping.

The choice of materials for the bottom of door surfaces can also impact ADA compliance. Materials such as rubber, vinyl, or aluminum are commonly used for thresholds and floor surfaces due to their smooth texture and durability.

Materials with textured or non-slip finishes, such as rubber or abrasive strips, are also great for enhancing traction and reducing the risk of slips and falls.

Lastly, the bottom of door surfaces should be able to withstand frequent use and exposure to environmental factors without deteriorating or becoming hazardous. Durable materials such as stainless steel or aluminum are often preferred.

Door Clearance

The final ADA requirement in terms of doors is related to clearance and maneuvering.

People with mobility impairments require sufficient space to approach, open, and pass through doors comfortably and safely. Inadequate door clearance can create barriers to access. The same applies to people with visual impairments.

Even people with cognitive impairments benefit from sufficient door clearance as they may require additional time and space to process information and make decisions when moving through doorways.

Let’s look at the specific requirements that need to be met:

  • Clearance Width: Doorways should provide a clear width of at least 32 inches (815 mm) when the door is open to 90 degrees, measured perpendicular to the doorway. For double doors in series, the minimum clear width should be 48 inches (1220 mm) when one leaf is inactive and 60 inches (1525 mm) when both leaves are active.
  • Maneuvering Space: The ADA also has requirements for maneuvering space. This includes providing a clear space of at least 30 inches (760 mm) by 48 inches (1220 mm) in front of doors to allow for approach and maneuvering. Door hardware should also be within reach ranges.
  • Swing Clearance: Doors should be designed and installed to provide adequate swing clearance, both when open and closed. This includes ensuring that doors do not obstruct adjacent spaces or walkways when fully open, and that door swings do not encroach on maneuvering spaces or create barriers to access.

Accessible door clearance

Final Thoughts

Doors give your employees and customers access to your facilities, which is why they’re such an important consideration when it comes to ADA compliance.

By adhering to these standards, you can avoid costly penalties and lawsuits, while also creating a more inclusive environment for all.

Click here to download our ADA door requirements checklist for ease of reference.


There are several important ADA-related requirements that bathroom doors should meet. For one, bathroom doors must have a minimum clear opening width of 32 inches when the door is open to 90 degrees. It’s also important for doors to not require excessive force to open and for door hardware to not require tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist.

Any steps your business has taken to comply with ADA requirements should be clearly displayed in an accessibility statement on your website. This communicates transparency, a commitment to accessibility, and it assures customers.

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