Volume 33, Number 3, March 1998

Accessible Upgrades

Providing Accessible Routes When Upgrading Buildings

by Vern Sanders

To properly comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), one must follow the guidelines prescribed in the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) or the American National Standard CABO/ANSI A117.1 Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities. These two documents differ slightly in text, but they use exactly the same section numbering system and the same illustrations. Several model building codes are in parallel with these guidelines, which, in turn, are referenced in most state and local building codes. Also, the requirements, in most cases, are the same for both interior and exterior doors, but any significant differences will be noted below.

When providing accessible routes in existing structures, there are several considerations to take into account at each doorway.

Section 4.5.2, Changes in Level, represents the area where the most correction may be required. Changes in level up to 1/4 inch can be vertical without edge treatment. This means that 1/4-inch abrupt rises are basically permitted in the accessible routes through buildings. However, options such as 1/4-inch half saddles are available to more comfortably accommodate wheelchairs over such "minimal" bumps in their travel routes.

Changes in level between 1/4 and 1/2 inch must be beveled with a slope no greater than 1:2. The 1/2-inch maximum change in level takes into account the height of the threshold or saddle. Therefore, in some cases, replacing a taller threshold (i.e., greater than 1/2 inch) with a low profiled threshold (1/2 inch or lower) may bring the level into compliance. Saddle thresholds, half-saddle, offset saddles, floorplates and latching panic exit saddles, most of which are available in extruded aluminum or brass, are available in a wide range of sizes and shapes and also comply with the accessibility guidelines of ADAAG as well as other standards and codes. Look for the ADA compliant icon in manufacturers’ catalogs.

The most significant problem encountered by contractors and building owners relates to openings with changes in level greater than 1/2 inch. Such offset conditions must be accommodated by means of ramp that complies with Section 4.8.2, Slope and Rise. Ramps in new construction must have slopes not greater than 1:12. (Alternations to existing buildings may allow slopes up to a maximum of 1:8 if space conditions do not allow for a 1:12 slope. Check with the jurisdictional authority for allowance of this variation.) Ramp systems that are attractive, easy to install, and that when properly assembled and installed provide the required 1:12 slope, are available. Such ramp systems are fabricated from extruded and forged aluminum or extruded and molded synthetic rubber. Some models have saddle-like top plates for offset applications, while others are for flush application. Ramps with wide top plates can be fabricated to accommodate center-hung or offset-hung floor closers. Most are also available with matching miter return end-trim. Miter returns neatly close off the unsightly ends of thresholds and reduce the chance of tripping by traversing foot traffic.

Another consideration is detailed in Section 4.3.6, Walking Surfaces: walking surfaces must be firm, stable and slip-resistant. The fluted surface of most thresholds and ramp systems provide the required measure of slip resistance. However, the addition of an abrasive skid-resistant coating is highly recommended, especially for exterior conditions. In the case of rubber ramps, the surface is inherently skid-/slip-resistant.

Section 4.13.11, Door Opening Force applies only to interior doors that are not classified as fire doors. The maximum force for pushing or pulling open a hinged, sliding or folding door is five pounds-force. Since many doors are equipped with closer devices, they must be adjusted to operate with a low closing force. Also, smoke or sound control gasketing must not interfere with such a low closing force. Fortunately, low-closing-force door gasketing systems are available that use self-adhesive pressure-sensitive silicon gasketing in "V" and "T" shapes, as well as low-closing-force automatic door bottoms. Another useful gasketing material for low-closing-force applications is nylon brush, available for perimeter head-and-jamb applications, as well as door sweep installations.

For occasions when the door itself must be replaced during retrofitting for ADA compliance, the problem of coordinating the hinge prep on the new door with that of the old frame is eliminated by the use of continuous geared hinges (which can cover old hinge preps). The ADA attraction of these hinges includes the added benefits of low closing force due to the extremely smooth gearing action, blocked sightlines and the elimination of finger pinching hazards. Continuous geared hinges are available in styles to accommodate virtually any installation requirement.


Vern Sanders is research and development manager for Pemko Manufacturing Company in Ventura, CA, and Memphis, TN. He is a mechanical design engineer with 35 years of experience in the design and development of residential and commercial builders hardware products.


Keeping Up With ADA Requirements

by Norwood (Woody) Dunham

It is imperative that glass retailers who want to sell automatic door operators keep up with the latest changes to ADA by subscribing to the government publications on this subject.

One of the best is Access Currents, published by the United States Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board. Access Currents is published bi-monthly following each meeting of the board, and is available for free upon request at 800/872-2253.

Our company also reviews all the latest publications by BHMA/ANSI 156.19 and ANSI 156.1. This publication is put out by Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association, Inc. (212/661-4261). The standard is intended as a guide to aid the manufacturer, the consumer and the general public about power operated doors. Performance tests and, where necessary, dimensional requirements have been established to ensure a degree of safety.

I would encourage glass retailers who want to install and service automatic doors to attend service schools by manufacturers of door operators, such as the American Association of Automatic Door Manufacturers’ (AAADM’s) certification program. Certified inspectors have gone though a two-day service school on the safest way to install and service automatic doors. For more details, call AAADM at 216/241-7333.

In my 25 years in this business, I’ve seen automatic doors become more reliable, quieter and safer. As the father of our industry, Lew Hewitt (now retired), said many years ago, "I would like all manufacturers to produce a good quality and safe automatic door operator." In doing so, Lew felt the public would not feel intimidated but look forward to walking though automatic doors. This would help our industry to grow. I think his dream is coming true.

Norwood (Woody) Dunham is national sales manager for Entrance Technology in Marshall, MI.


Copyright 1998 Key Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.