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.