Choosing ADA Compliant Commercial Door Hardware

Commercial property and business owners have a lot to consider when it comes to setting up a store. Planning a building, office, store or warehouse design is typically left up to contractors while the owner concentrates on pressing matters like inventory, etc.

However, neglecting to get involved in the design process may inadvertently lead to excluding patrons with disabilities. It may even result in a lawsuit. Choosing ADA compliant commercial door hardware should be the responsibility of both the contractor and the business or property owner. The United States Department of Justice administrates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA.) The Act became law in 1990, and its aim is to protect Americans with disabilities from discrimination, and to provide them with equal opportunity to jobs, shopping and every thing else pertaining to daily living.

The ADA has gone through a number of updates and amendments as times have changed and technology has progressed. The most recent amendments to the ADA were signed into law by former President George Bush in September of 2008.

The ADA, in part, requires commercial property owners to design their buildings, offices, store space, etc. in a manner that makes them fully accessible to people with disabilities. While the word “disabilities” has a broad definition, it speaks in particular of Americans with limited mobility (i.e. wheelchair bound or crippled) when applied to commercial building design.

The parameters for commercial building design for Americans with disabilities are set out in the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. Section 4.13 applies specifically to commercial door hardware. This government publication is available for free to interested citizens, advocacy groups, contractors and business owners/managers.

Doorway egress and ease of opening are of particular importance when addressing issues of access to commercial buildings/businesses for people with disabilities. The current ADA sets particular standards for door egress, for example, to ensure that those in wheelchairs can enter and exit a public building without undue difficulty.

When it comes to commercial door hardware, the ADA states in Section 4.13.9 that: “Handles, pulls, latches, locks, and other operating devices on accessible doors shall have a shape that is easy to grasp with one hand and does not require tight grasping, tight pinching, or twisting of the wrist to operate.” This means that doors on public buildings must be outfitted with ADA compliant commercial door hardware. Lever-style door handles are one example of ADA-compliant door entry hardware.

Other commercial door hardware components, such as door closers, must also be in compliance with ADA regulations. Door closers shut doors automatically after they have been opened. Door closers must be set in such a manner that allows ample time and egress for a person with disabilities to fully enter the doorway before the door swings shut again.

Other commercial door hardware components that must be taken into consideration when outfitting public buildings include crash bars/panic bars, automatic/power door openers, locks and thresholds. Every business/commercial property owner and contractor should become familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act, particularly the “Standards for Accessible Design” section.