Door handle height regulations

Written by greg jackson
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Door handle height regulations
Door handle height regulations are covered by numerous regulatory agencies. (Row of glass doors image by Lucid_Exposure from Fotolia.com)

The placement of a handle on a door is dependent on the size of the door. Most doors for home installation are 80 inches tall, and door handles are generally placed on the door three feet from the floor. However, there are door handle height regulations when it comes to accessibility for disabled persons, and these regulations are covered by the International Building Code (IBC), as well as federal, state, and local code standards.

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Federal Regulations

The federal standards for doors and door hardware are found in several sets of codes concerning building design and accessibility. The General Services Administration, the Department of Defense, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Postal Service all set forth regulations concerning door handle height, and all are based on standards from the American National Standards Institute in their accessibility guidelines from 1961. These formed the basis for the Architectural Barriers Act (1968), the Rehabilitation Act (1973), the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (1984), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990). These federal regulations for door handle height state that door handles must be at least 48 inches from the floor level. They must also be easy to operate with one hand without a tight grasp or a twisting of the wrist. Acceptable types of handles include U-shaped, push-type, and lever-type handles or mechanisms.

IBC Regulations

Section 1003.3 of the IBC regulations (General Means of Egress) addresses door handle height ( Sub-section 1003.3.1.1.1 states that any projection into a doorway, hallway or any other means of access higher than 34 inches may be 4 inches from the wall of such an access. This includes push-handle types of door handles. This door handle height regulation covers all building types and concurs with ADA requirements for wheelchair accessibility. These requirements allow a person in a wheelchair to pass through the door when it is open without the handle obstructing their access.

United Nations Recommendations

The United Nations is another entity that concerns itself with door accessibility in the context of considering those with disabilities. Their Department of Economic and Social Affairs website provides a design manual for a barrier-free environment from 2004. Chapter II, Section 8 of this manual gives recommended dimensions for doors, including door handle height. Subsection 3.4 (Manual Door Hardware) states that door handles should be at a minimum height of between 0.9 and 1.0 meters from the floor surface to provide a “comfortable” way for wheelchair users to open a door. Although the information in this manual is categorised as recommendations and guidelines, these dimensions for door handles reflect existing height regulations for door handles, including technical standards established by the International Code Council (ICC) and American National Standards Institute (ANSI), under The ICC/ANSI standard A117.1 titled “Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities”.

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