ADA Compliant Doors: A Cleveland Business Owner Guide
Opening your doors to the public means ensuring those doors readily open for all. Most Cleveland businesses, property owners, and non-profit operations are required by law to have ADA compliant doors, allowing safe entry and exit for people of all abilities. Whether you’re breaking ground on a brand new building or renovating an existing structure, it’s important to review the door accessibility standards laid out in the Americans With Disabilities Act to determine whether your doors meet the required specifications. Our Cleveland commercial door experts can help.
The ADA is a federal law passed in 1990 that provides people with disabilities certain protections – one of those being equal opportunity access. It requires government entities and private businesses make reasonable accommodations to provide those with disabilities usable access to their facilities. That includes doors and entryways.
ADA applies to any business, organization, or operation that:
- Has 15+ employees.
- Is open to the general public.
- Operates for the benefit of the general public.
For new construction, at least 60 percent of public entrances must meet ADA accessibility standards. This is in addition to entrances serving tenancies, elevated walkways, parking facilities, and pedestrian tunnels. A “public entrance” is any entrance that is not restricted or used exclusively as a service entrance.
Renovations of existing structures must include ADA compliant doors when:
- The existing entrance is altered (assuming that entrance isn’t already fully compliant).
- New entrances are added to a building or as part of an addition to the facility.
- It’s necessary to achieve an accessible path of travel to primary function areas that are altered (except when doing so would be disproportionate to the cost).
Common Door Accessibility Issues
Some of the door accessibility issues that can fall short of ADA standards:
- Not enough clear width. ADA accessible doors have at least 32 inches of clear width from the door’s face to the opposite stop.
- Tough-to-maneuver hardware. Door hardware should make it so that no more than 5 pounds of force is required. A person should be able to open a door one-handed without tight grasping, pinching, or twisting the wrist.
- Too-high thresholds. With a few exceptions, thresholds can’t be higher than 1/2 inch.
- Lack of maneuvering space. There needs to be a certain amount of clear space to allow people with wheelchairs and mobility challenges to approach the door, reach the hardware, open while remaining outside the swing, get through the doorway and close the door behind them.
- Short closing speed. Doors that quickly shut after opening are difficult for people with disabilities to move through safely. In general, doors should take at least 5 seconds to move from 90 degrees to 12 degrees from the latching point.
Note: While automatic doors can go a long way toward improving accessibility, current ADA standards don’t require them.
What if I’m in an Older Building?
Older commercial buildings are fairly common in the Cleveland area, with many erected long before the 1991 ADA Standards for Accessible Design went into effect – let alone the 2010 updates. But that doesn’t mean ADA door rules can go out the window.
Contrary to popular belief, the ADA does not “grandfather” in older facilities built prior to January 1992 (when the law went into effect). There is a “safe harbor” provision, but it doesn’t allow owners of older buildings to disregard ADA altogether. Rather, the safe harbor provision says that when certain elements comply with the 1991 standards, they don’t necessarily need to be modified to meet the latest 2010 standards.
For the most part, places of public accommodation built prior to 1992 are required to undertake readily achievable barrier removal. This means that ADA compliance alterations should be initiated where they can be done without much difficulty or expense.
In addition to ensuring 60 percent of all public entrances are accessible, at least one door in the following categories must be ADA compliant:
- Every tenant space in a mall or other type of building that houses multiple businesses.
- Entrances to building from parking structures or tunnels.
- Restricted/secured entrances.
- Doors along each escape route.
If there are parts of the building that the public doesn’t use, those areas may be exempted from ADA – but alterations could still be necessary to ensure access for employees with disabilities.
Other exemptions for ADA compliance include workplaces less than 300 square feet, circulation paths (permanently installed counters, kitchens, and partitions) less than 1,000 square feet, modifications that would significantly alter the basic structure, and everyday use circulation paths essential for work functions.
If you have an older building but are renovating after March 2012, then adherence to the 2010 ADA standards is required.
Benefits of Cleveland ADA Compliant Doors
Regardless of whether ADA compliance is required for your doors, there are many reasons to adhere to those standards anyway.
In the United States, it’s estimated some 31 million people have trouble walking and rely on a wheelchair, cane, crutches, or walker to get around. Among them are your current and prospective employees, customers, volunteers, and guests. In fact, people with disabilities are the largest and fastest-growing minority in the U.S., controlling $1 trillion in total annual income. Setting aside the possibility of government repercussions for ADA compliance failure, inaccessible doors make it tougher for people to work, study, or shop at your facility. That can adversely impact your bottom line.
Even if ADA compliant doors cost a bit more upfront, the tradeoff is worth it. Some advantages include:
- Inclusivity makes for better business. When people feel good about their surroundings, it creates an overall positive environment – for working, shopping, connecting, etc. Welcoming people of all abilities keeps you competitive – both in terms of your workforce and your customer base. Showing your company cares about the unique needs and abilities of everyone demonstrates a lot about your identity as an operation.
- Tax incentives. Small businesses can obtain a tax credit for the cost of undertaking ADA compliance. Eligible companies can apply for a credit that will cover 50% of ADA-related expenditures – including accessibility improvements such as ADA compliant doors.
- Protection from legal action. When entranceways are not compliant with current ADA standards, they can pose safety risks, such as trip-and-fall hazards. If someone is injured on your property due to a feature that isn’t ADA compliant, that could open the door to legal liability.
- Easier accessibility for all. Although accessible doorways certainly make life easier for people who use wheelchairs, the benefits aren’t limited to them. ADA compliant doors also help those recovering from injuries, elderly people, parents with small children/strollers, and shoppers with purchase-laden arms.
If you have questions about ADA compliant doors, installation, repair, or replacement, our team at Advance Door can help.
Advance Door Co. provides commercial door products, services, repairs, and replacements to customers throughout Northeast Ohio, including Cleveland, Parma, and surrounding communities.
More Blog Entries:
Cleveland Overhead Commercial Door Safety Tips, Nov. 3, 2022, Cleveland Commercial Door Company Blog