How do we deal with access into small closets?

Posted on - Thursday, December 9th, 2010

The 2010 Standards of Accessible Design Section 305.3 describes the clear floor area for rooms, including storage rooms, as being a minimum of 30″x48″. This is the amount of space required by a wheelchair.  In storage closets it is important to have not only the minimum requirements, but if they are full entry closets, then the ability to turn around and exit the closet will also be required.  Many times, storage closets are designed narrow and deep, which becomes problematic if the person in the wheelchair is able to fully enter the space and not get back out.

Shallow vs. Full entry closets

There are two types of closets: one is a “shallow closet” space which is shallower than   the 48″ x 30″ required by a wheelchair and therefore does not allow full entry.  A closet that is deeper than 48″ would allow full entry by a person in a wheelchair.

In storage facilities (i.e. closets) that allow full entry, a 5′-0″ turning space is required so that once in they can turn around and get out without risk of getting stuck. What if you don’t have the five feet?  Then you can make the deep closet act like shallow closets.  Here are some examples:

If you have a wide closet that is 48″ wide and 48″ deep, but no 5′-0″ space, try adding shelving to the back to make the space less than 48″ and therefore does not allow for full entry.

deep closet
Deep Closet and no turning space
solution deep

Shelf makes it a shallow closet

If you have a closet that is narrow , like 36″ wide, but deeper than 48″, and already has shelving in the back, one solution is to swing the door in so that there is no risk in getting trapped inside by the door closing and not being able to turn around to exit after the door is closed.
deep out swinging door

Deep closet with an out swinging door

closet with in swinging door
Deep closet with in swinging door

Inspector’s Corner: Shallow Closet

The 2010 Standards for Accessible Design, states the requirements for storage in section 811, but it refers you back to section 308 for reach ranges. If you have a shallow closet, there needs to be a reach range per Figure 308.3.1 which shows an unobstructed side approach. The only obstruction you can have 10″ of depth maximum. The rod or shelving would have to be no taller than 48″ high


In this shallow closet used to hang smocks and personal belongings at a beauty salon ,
the doorway is not 30″ therefore a side approach is required. But the rod is higher than
48″ and the distance away from the doorway was more than 10″. Therefore this was not
an acceptable storage closet.


A solution could be to add a second rod that is at 48″ high and 10″ away from the opening of the storage closet.