ADA Requirements for Automatic Doors


While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) doesn’t require an automatic operator in order for a door to be considered accessible, using automatic doors is a great way to ensure accessibility for a wide range of people.

wheelchair inside older building lobby

According to the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, 60% of public entrances must be considered accessible. A public entrance is considered all entrances except those that are restricted or used exclusively as service entrances. According to the ADA standards, a door must have a minimum clear width, maneuvering clearance minimums and a maximum opening force and closing speed. Read our article about What Makes an Entrance ADA Compliant.

Automatic door / Automatic Door Operator Installation

When an automatic door or automatic door operator is installed, it must follow the same accessibility standards when both in use and when not in use. The ADA also uses standards for automatic doors established by the Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association.

Swing Doors

The most common type of automatic door is a swinging door, which swings in or out. A swinging door typically has one of three types of automatic operators: full-powered, low-energy and power-assisted.

Full-Power Operators

Full-power operators are found on high-use openings, including the entrance to places like grocery stores or department stores. These kinds of operators are required to have use safety sensors, along with control mats and guide rails, which precent the doors from opening if someone is in the path of the door swing. These don’t have the same restrictions on speed and force.

Low-Energy Operator

A low-energy operator is used to give a door the option of being automatically opened or manually opened. The low-energy operator gives some assistance with opening the door if needed. Low-energy doors have limitations on opening speed and force to combat the combination of the automatic door operator and the weight of the person opening the door.

Power-Assist Door Operator

A power-assist door operator lowers the opening force, which means the door can be manually opened in an easier manner. Some force needs to be manually applied to open a power-assist door operator. They are activated by pushing or pulling the door.

The low-energy and power-assist operators both have the same requirements, and each must be activated by what is called a “knowing act.” A knowing act can mean a few different things:

-a push-plate actuator or non-contact switch mounted on the wall

-an access control device, such as a keypad, key switch or card reader

-manually pushing or pulling the door to trigger the assistance

ADA Standards on Switch Mounts

There are also further ADA standards on the placement of a switch mounted on a wall used to trigger one of the knowing acts. These standards deal with distance from the center of the door, ensuring the switch remains accessible when the door is opened, placing it in a location so the user is not in the path of the moving door and a maximum and minimum height for the switch.

Motion Sensors

A motion sensor is not considered a knowing act, as it only requires someone to enter into the sensor’s field. If you want to go with a motion sensor to trigger an automatic operation, you must get a door operator that complies with the full-power standards.

At Harry’s Locksmith, our trained professionals can help install and/or repair automatic door operators, whether you’re looking to make ADA upgrades or simply put in a new door.