If G-d is in the details, then the devil is in the detail of the ADA Standards

Posted on - Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Mies van de Rohe said “G-d is in the Details”, but people who deal with codes and regulations agree that “the devil is in the details” because if you miss one it could get you in trouble.  

 In the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design (The 2010 Standards), there are a few places where the details could be missed.  This post I will list a few of those details that you should be aware of.  


           Handrails vs. Grab Bars 


Chapter 5 of the 2010 Standards explains the requirements for handrails at stairs, ramps, and walk ways. 


At handrails, the distance allowed from the mounting surface to the edge of the handrail is 1 ½” minimum . This is different from the 1991 Guidelines which allowed 

1 ½” only






However the dimension only applies to handrails at a ramp or stair. At restroom grab bars, Section 609.3 Grab Bar Spacing of the 2010 Standards (p. 293 of the ADA Companion Guide) states that the space between the wall and grab bar shall be 1 ½” (no range allowed).  Thus, it is 1 1/2″ only. 


At ramps, a 12″ horizontal extension of handrails at top and bottom is required if the handrails are not continuous. This extension should be horizontal and parallel to the path of travel. 



However, at a stair, a 12″ extension at the bottom of the stair is required, but not horizontally.  The extension on the top of the stair has to extend horizontally and parallel with the path of travel. 

top of stair 

bottom of stair 


 Clear Widths  

An accessible route must be 36″ wide minimum.  Door widths must be 32″ min.  


Therefore, doorways along the accessible route can reduce the accessible route width to 32″ min.  A doorway can be a cased opening along the route, and the width can be decreased to 32″ for a length of 24″.  

 acessible route  


But even at doorways, the width can be reduced even further by 4″ more to allow for hardware to project into the width if the door hardware is mounted below 34″ a.f.f.  So at the panic hardware, the clear width could be as narrow as 28″.  



Even though an accessible route should be 36″ min., at a restroom the accessible route to reach the accessible toilet compartments is increased to 42″ wide.  

  tlt compartment  

 access to wc  


In the 2010 Standards, it is more clear that a door swing can overlap the turning space in a room.  

304.4 Door Swing. Door shall be permitted to swing into turning spaces  

dressing room   


By the same token, door swings cannot overlap clear floor space of any fixtures or dressing rooms.    

603.2.3 Door Swing. Doors shall not swing into the clear floor space or clearance required for any fixture. Doors shall be permitted to swing into the required turning space.  

This is true because if a person is using a fixture like a lavatory for example, and a door swings into the clear floor space while they are using it, they will get hit.    

There is an exception that in a single user restroom or dressing room, the door can swing in if there is a 30″x48″ space beyond the swing of the door.  


In restrooms, a 60″x 56″ clear floor space is required at water closets.  But if you think about it, the floor space is not exactly “clear” because there is a toilet in the way.    



So the 2010 Standards understood that , allows an overlap of the clear floor space with the water closet, shelving, toilet paper dispensers, grab bars and other elements that are needed in the restroom.