Clear Widths Along an Accessible Route

Posted on - Friday, January 3rd, 2020
As most of us know, the minimum clear widths along an accessible route that the ADA requires are 36″ minimum clear.  But there are times when are allowed to be narrower or required to be wider.  This newsletter will explain those instances.

Clear Width Reduction


In the 2010 ADA guidelines, section 403 gives us a figure to follow which explains that the 36″ wide clear width can be reduced to 32″ clear as long as the distance that you travel through the narrower width is no more than 24″ deep.
403.5.1 Clear Width. Except as provided in 403.5.2 and 403.5.3, the clear width of walking surfaces shall be 36 inches (915 mm) minimum.
EXCEPTION: The clear width shall be permitted to be reduced to 32 inches (815 mm) minimum for  a length of 24 inches (610 mm) maximum provided that reduced width segments are separated by  segments that are 48 inches (1220 mm) long minimum and 36 inches (915 mm) wide minimum.

But do both sides of the path need to be 24″ long the way it is shown in the figure above?  Could one side be a wall or even a longer cabinet or obstruction?  I was inspecting a restroom and found that condition.  There was a cased opening to enter the toilet compartment area.  One side of the cased opening was 8″ deep and the other side was the restroom wall which was longer than 24″.

This is the photo of the cased opening along the route to the sinks
This is the plan of the cased opening (where it says “Align”) which part of it is 8″ on one side and longer than 24″ on the other side. The opening was less than 36″ wide.
The guidelines allow this.  As long as one side of the path is no more than 24″ long and it goes back to 36″ wide, it will be an acceptable condition.

Clear width at the approach to a toilet compartment


A clear path to a toilet compartment (both wheelchair and ambulatory) should  also have a  36″ minimum clear width.  Except that at the approach to the door it must increase to 42″ in width
604.8.1.2 Doors. Toilet compartment doors, including door hardware, shall comply with 404 except that if the approach is to the latch side of the compartment door, clearance between the door side of the compartment and any obstruction shall be 42 inches (1065 mm) minimum

The standard is giving us requirements for the door clearance only.  The path to the toilet compartment is still required to have a 36″ minimum clear width.  But the space to open the toilet compartment door and the  maneuvering clearance (if the approach is on the latch side) must have a  42″ minimum clear width between the door and the obstruction

This photo shows the plan view of a path to the ambulatory toilet compartment.

In the plan view above you can see a furred out column in front of the toilet compartments.  That fur out is located within the door maneuvering clearance of the ambulatory toilet compartment and it reduces the 42″ required width to 36″

This figure above shows the door maneuvering clearance at the latch side approach.  A toilet compartment door will only require 42″ of clear width not 48″ like a standard door.

Passing space


Along an accessible route you are required to have 36″ clear width.  This width is required to be widened to 60″ every 200 feet.  This is to allow people in wheelchairs and pedestrians to pass each other.
403.5.3 Passing Spaces. An accessible route with a clear width less than 60 inches (1525 mm) shall provide passing spaces at intervals of 200 feet (61 m) maximum. Passing spaces shall be either: a space 60 inches (1525 mm) minimum by 60 inches (1525 mm) minimum; or, an intersection of two walking surfaces providing a T-shaped space complying with 304.3.2 where the base and arms of the T-shaped space extend 48 inches (1220 mm) minimum beyond the intersection
Here is a video from the Access Board that explains it

Clear width at turns


When a wheelchair makes a ninety degree turn, a 36″ minimum clear width is allowed.

But when a wheelchair is required to make a 180 degree turn, like in a narrow corridor, or maybe in a queue line or library stacks, then the width will have to increase from 36″ to 42″ depending on what size the element they are turning around is.

403.5.2 Clear Width at Turn. Where the accessible route makes a 180 degree turn around an  element which is less than 48 inches (1220 mm) wide, clear width shall be 42 inches (1065 mm)  minimum approaching the turn, 48 inches (1220 mm) minimum at the turn and 42 inches (1065 mm) minimum leaving the turn.
EXCEPTION: Where the clear width at the turn is 60 inches (1525 mm) minimum compliance with  403.5.2 shall not be required.
For instance if the space that they are turning around is 60″ in depth, then the clear width can be 36″ min.  If the space is 48″, then the clear width will have to increase to 42″
This video will give you some guidance on turning and wheelchair clearances