How wide do doors need to be to accommodate wheelchairs? These days, people who use wheelchairs are more and more active in society, so it's important that homes and businesses and public settings be designed and retrofitted with reasonable accommodations for wheelchairs to fit through doors and have full access. In this article, we discuss the width of typical wheelchairs and how wide doorways should be made to accommodate them. Read on to learn more.
Traditionally, home doorways are between 23 and 27 inches wide. Sadly, this is not wide enough to accommodate most wheelchairs. When designing or modifying a home in the modern world, it's wise to pay attention to the guidelines put forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which state that doors should have a clear width measurement of 32 inches. This measurement is wide enough to accommodate most wheelchairs, but it should be noted that there are some heavy duty wheelchairs that measure a full 40 inches wide, so minimal plans or modifications are probably inadequate.
If you're going to go to the expense and effort of designing or modifying doorways in a home or business to accommodate wheelchairs, it's wise to err on the side of excess rather than doing the bare minimum. For example, if you decide to do your modifications only to accommodate a fairly narrow transport chair, you will still find yourself in trouble if accessibility for wider chair becomes an issue in the future. Wider doorways are more accommodating for everyone, both ambulatory and wheelchair users.
How Do Wider Doorways Help?
Wider doorways make it easier for everyone to navigate in any home or building. When taking deliveries of large items, moving furnishings within the home or simply moving from room to room, capacious doorways make life simpler and help avoid bumps and scrapes for both ambulatory occupants and wheelchair users.
For people who use wheelchairs, accessible doorways provide independence and help prevent embarrassing and dangerous accidents such as getting stuck, scraping knuckles and even bruising or breaking hands or fingers trying to squeeze through narrow doorways.
How Do You Plan for Accessibility Modifications?
Consider these questions when planning accessibility modifications to doorways:
- 1Think about the approach to the door. Will there be enough room around the door for the person to be able to line up smoothly and wheel straight in?
- 2What happens after passing through the door? Is there a narrow turn on the other side that will make it difficult for people using larger wheelchairs to have full access?
- 3Is width the only issue you must deal with, or are there other problems? For example, does the flooring or the threshold of the door pose an accessibility problem? If so, you may need to make changes to provide smooth sailing.
- 4Are you in compliance with the ADA recommendations? They are:
How Can You Make Doorways Wider for Wheelchairs?
Follow these simple tips:
- 1Special hinges called Z hinges or offset hinges can be installed so that the door will swing completely clear of its frame. This simple, inexpensive modification can add an extra inch of clearance to the doorway.
- 2Remove the door completely. Simply taking out the door will naturally make it easier to go through and will add an inch to the clearance just as installing Z hinges would do. This is a simple solution if privacy is not an issue. If it is an issue, a curtain can always be added.
- 3Remove trim from the framing. Taking off trim all the way around can add another inch of clearance to the frame.
- 4Change the swing of the door. A door may be wide enough, but if it swings in the wrong direction may make it difficult for a person using a wheelchair to navigate it.
- 5Replace the swinging door with a pocket door or sliding door to provide little more width.
- 6Widen the frame. If you're not able to get enough clearance using the first six tips, you will need to widen the doorway. Even if the actual doorway is wide enough for the wheelchair to pass through, you may need to widen it if there are sharp turns on either or both sides. Widening the doorway will increase maneuverability.
- 7Pay attention to details. Remember that when you widen a doorway, you may also need to make adjustments to components such as light switches and electrical sockets and wiring in the walls surrounding the door. Make doorways easier to navigate by installing levered handles or an automatic opening device.
- 8Plan for the future. Even if you or a member of your household or employee at your business does not currently use a wheelchair, it is always a good idea to make your building and remodeling plans in compliance with the ADA guidelines. Doing this is a wise way to make your home or building accommodating and accessible right from the start and save yourself costly modification expenses in the future.
- 9Provide generous accessibility. Even though the ADA guidelines say that doors should be 32 inches wide and hallways should be 36 inches wide, it's wise to go wider if you can. You'll never go wrong with a 36 inch wide doorway and a 48 inch wide hallway.
How Wide is a Wheelchair?
Wheelchair width is quite variable depending upon the type of wheelchair, the size of its occupant and whether it is a standard or customized chair. There are many different types of wheelchairs. Here is general information regarding width expectations for 13 of the most commonly encountered types.
Plan for the Unexpected
These are just a few examples of the many types of mobility devices one might encounter in the course of daily life. Clearly, when planning or modifying for accessibility in your home or office, it just makes sense to build in the widest hall and doorway modifications possible to prevent problems.