Doors and Handles for Accessibility

Door-and-door-hardwareDoors are an important part of accessible design, yet they are sometimes neglected during the design process. Doors that are difficult to open can create a significant access barrier.

While not every opening between rooms requires a door, there are some common reasons why an occupant might desire a door between rooms in their home:

  • Audible and visual privacy
  • Security
  • Containment of aromas
  • Climate control

If a door is deemed necessary between two rooms, it leads to a host of new decisions that must be made about that door. Primarily, a decision needs to be made between a hinged door and a sliding door.

Hinged Doors

Hinged doors generally provide a wider opening, which can be important for those with limited mobility. Additionally, hinged doors can be made sound and light proof, while sliding doors are difficult to design this way. Hinged doors also require less maintenance, because there are less components to a hinged door.

The main downside of hinged doors is that they take up more room in the area around the doorway. Additionally, these types of doors can be more difficult to operate for those in a wheelchair or who have strength limitations. If hinged doors are left ajar, they can pose a hazard for those who have impaired vision.

Sliding Doors

Sliding doors are more complex to install and difficult to make light and soundproof. They also require more maintenance than normal hinged doors.

On the positive side, however, sliding doors do not intrude into space around the doorway. They are also easier to access from those who are in a wheelchair. There are two main types of sliding doors: concealed and surface-mounted. It’s important that sliding doors that provide the only means of access into a room are fitted with emergency latches that allow the doors to be opened forcibly in the event of an emergency.

Choosing Door Handles

Hinged doors often have rotating handles or doorknobs. This makes them more difficult to grip and turn for those with disabilities. Instead of these types of handles, D-handles that are large and easy to grasp are ideal for those with disabilities.

Another excellent option for door handles is lever handles. These handles allow someone to operate a door with as little effort as possible: they can simply lean on the handle to open or close the door. This makes lever handles an ideal solution for those who have physical disabilities or poor hand-eye coordination.

To learn more about choosing doors and handles for residential accessible design, see our PDF guide on choosing doors and handles for those with disabilities.

Designing clear paths of travel


In the past wall setouts on plans were based on stud frame to stud frame. With the implementation of AS1428.1-2009 Building Designers will need to carefully review setouts as the minimum spaces nominated must me unobstructed.

Typical obstructions include (but not limited to)

  • Skirtings & coved skirtings over 15mm radius
  • Architraves
  • Fire hose reels
  • Shelves,
  • Signage

This will mean where minimum widths are nominated ie a corridor of 1220mm may need stud offsets of 1276mmmm (1220mm + 20mm (2 x 10mm plasterboard), + 36mm (2 x 18mm skirtings).

Corridor widths, latch & hinge clearances, sanitary facilities etc will all be affected.

What does AS1428.1-2009 say?

6.1 General

A continuous accessible path of travel shall not include a step, stairway, turnstile, revolving door, escalator, moving walk or other impediment.

6.2 Heights of a continuous accessible path of travel
The minimum unobstructed height of a continuous accessible path of travel shall be 2000 mm or 1980 mm at doorways (see Figure 2).

6.3 Width of a continuous accessible path of travel
Unless otherwise specified (such as at doors, curved ramps and similar), the minimum unobstructed width (see Figure 2) of a continuous accessible path of travel shall be 1000 mm and the following shall not intrude into the minimum unobstructed width of a continuous accessible path of travel:
a) Fixtures and fittings such as lights, awnings, windows that, when open, intrude into the circulation space, telephones, skirtings and similar objects.
(b) Essential fixtures and fittings such as fire hose reels, fire extinguishers and switchboards.
(c) Door handles less than 900 mm above the finished floor level.