Accessible Means of Egress

Posted on - Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

The 1991 ADAAG required that all exits that served as a means of egress as defined in the IBC be accessible. the 2010 ADA Standards no longer scopes how many means of egress must be accessible,  but it refers to the 2003 IBC edition or 2000 IBC edition with 2001 supplement for the accessible means of egress requirements.  Typically, the IBC requires, if there is  one means of egress it must be accessible.  If there are two or more means of egress, then two accessible means of egress are required.

Although the ADA Standards do not have specific requirements for accessible means of egress, it references the IBC and adopts their requirements. This newsletter will explain where the IBC ends and the ADA begins when determining the means of egress requirements.

Accessible Means of Egress

An accessible means of egress, according to the IBC, is a “continuous and unobstructed way of egress travel from any point in a building or facility that provides an accessible route to an area of refuge, a horizontal exit, or a public way.

Exit access is any path from any location in a building to an exit.  Although we must follow what the IBC dictates on the means of egress requirements, an exit access in the ADA cannot be less than 36″ wide.  The IBC typically requires it to be wider (48″ min).

Exits include doors to the outside, enclosed exit stairways or horizontal exits.  The ADA requires that doors used to pass through a space to the exit meet the guidelines of section 404.  Those guidelines require maneuvering clearances, door hardware, opening force and closing speed to comply.  Means of egress doors could include doors into exit stairwell, doors leading to exterior exits or doors leading to exit corridors just to name a few.



This exit door had a push side approach with both a closer and a latch.  The maneuvering was a forward approach, and the door was recessed more than 8″, therefore it required a 12″ additional space on the latch side (even though it was a means of egress door).   

An exit discharge is the path from an exit to a public way (i.e. street or alley).  The ADA does not have guidelines directly relating to an exit discharge.  Exit discharged are scoped by reference.  Assisted rescue including area of refuge are not scoped in the ADA, but may be in the IBC depending on whether the building is sprinklered or not.

Means of Egress Stairs

If there are any new stairs on the exterior or interior that are part of the means of egress, they must follow the guidelines on section 504 and 505.

Whereas the IBC will focus on the number of stairs required, including the width etc, the ADA focuses on the walking surface inclusing the depth of threads and height of risers, and whether the stair treads have nosings.  The ADA will also give guidelines on the handrails heights, size, shape and continuity.


Existing stairs are excempted


The ADA section 216.4 sets guidelines for exit doors, area of refuge, and directional signs that provide directions to accessible means of egress.  These signs must not only comply with the ADA sections 703 but also the IBC sections specified in the Standards.


Means of egress signs should have raised characters and visual characters with a certain size, depth, case, style and proportions all found in ADA section 703.2 and 703.5 If the visual characters are accompanied by braille that complies with ADA 703.3, then the visual characters provided do not have to have a specific case, style, height, proportions, height, or spacing.


Upcoming Continuing Education Opportunities

“How Accessible is Your Work Place” By Green CE online Webinar- April 16th 3 p.m. CST

We will be presenting at the 2015 National AIA convention in Atlanta.  Our class will be “Applying the ADA in Existing and altered facilities: TH118 on May 14th

If you are interested in getting a Barrier Free/ADA CEU online, I partnered with Green CE.  We will be presenting live webinars this year.  We will post details as they become available

If you are interested in Building Code seminars check out my colleague Shahla Layendecker with SSTL Codes

If you want to learn more about these standards, be sure to check out my books:

“The ADA Companion Guide”  “Applying the ADA” published by Wiley. 



 They are available for sale now. (also available as an e-book)
If you have any questions about these or any other topics, please feel free to contact me anytime.

Marcela Abadi Rhoads, RAS #240
Abadi Accessibility
214. 403.8714
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