A Brief Guide to Door Clearance and Other ADA Requirements

People with disabilities are one of the largest and fastest growing minority groups in the U.S. Although there have been significant improvements in how they are treated, there is a long way to go in providing them with better access and more opportunities. 

On July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, and for over 31 years, it has been incredibly beneficial. This Act guides businesses and individuals to meet the requirements to make everyday life more accommodating and thoughtful of people with disabilities. 

The building codes stated in the ADA allow for some exceptions, but for the most part, it requires doors to comply with its accessibility standards. This article will provide a brief guide on the door clearance requirements and other basic regulations for interior manual swinging doors in commercial facilities. 

Here’s what you need to know:

Closing Speed

The speed at which the door closes can present a challenge to people with disabilities. The ADA-mandated speeds are optimum to allow people with disabilities to go through doorways with ease. Doors with closers should take at least five seconds to go from a 90-degree angle to 12 degrees from the latch. Doors with spring hinges, on the other hand, shouldn’t take less than 1.5 seconds to go from an open 70-degree angle to a close. 

Opening Force

Opening force refers to the continuous force needed to fully open the door. For this, the opening force should be no more than five-foot pounds. Note that opening force doesn’t include the initial force necessary to release the lock or whatever mechanism is keeping doors closed. 


When it comes to the hardware—handles, pulls, locks, and so on—the height at which it’s installed should be between 34 to 48 inches from the ground. Handles should be operable with one hand or a closed fist, without requiring a tight grip or too much wrist motion. The best options to meet these requirements are levers and U-shaped handles. 

Door Surface

Doors must be very smooth from 10 inches above the floor. If there are any parts that create joints, it should only have a maximum 1/16 inch difference from the smooth surface. Any cavities must be closed to ensure that assistive devices such as canes, crutches, and others do not get caught on the door.


Thresholds should have no more than 1/4 inch of vertical height. For newer thresholds, the requirement is a maximum of half an inch. Some existing thresholds are not ADA compliant because of the year they were built. Nonetheless, the maximum height allowed is 3/4 inches.

Vision Lights 

Vision lights and sidelights should be at a maximum of 43 inches above the floor, allowing for better visibility for all. Vision lights over 66 inches high do not have to meet this requirement because their primary purpose is to light up the space instead of acting as a door guide.

Door Opening Height

The height requirement for a clear opening is a minimum of 80 inches. However, door closers and overhead stops are an exception and allow for a height of at least 78 inches.

Clear Width (Door Clearance)

The door opening should provide a clear width of at least 32 inches. Doorways with swinging doors are measured between the face of the door and the stop, with the opening at 90 degrees. Openings that are over 24 inches should provide a minimum of 36 inches of the clear opening. For double-leaf doors, at least one active door should be ADA-compliant. These requirements do not apply to security doors and doorways.


If you are looking for inspection tools to confirm whether equipment and structures are compliant with standard requirements and regulations, we can help you. All Things Inspector offers a wide range of products and resources to help you build structures that are compliant with ADA standards. We are a leading online marketplace for inspection tools, so contact us today for more information! 

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Merle Parkins