For your business to comply with current ADA standards, in most cases, your bathroom door needs to swing out. That is, it swings into the hallway or adjoining room and not into the bathroom itself. Why is this rule in place, and what else do you need to know about bathroom doors to comply with the ADA? We’ll offer some explanations below.

Why Does the Door Need to Swing Out?

Why does the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) require all bathroom doors to swing out? The reason is simple: so that a person with a wheelchair has room to turn in the bathroom. If the door swings in, they may not be able to get out of the way of the door closing in small bathrooms.

As this is the reason why, where the bathroom does allow enough space for someone in a wheelchair to turn fully around past the point where the door swings, the door can swing inward. The ADA calls for a clear rectangular space of at least 30 inches by 48 inches for a wheelchair to turn around in. So, in large bathrooms, you may get away with installing a door to swing inward.

But, in bathrooms made for one person or those that are small, doors that swing out into the hall or the larger room the bathroom is attached to is the only way to accommodate people with wheelchairs and other large mobility devices.

What About in Unusual Circumstances?

You might think that a bathroom on your property could be an exception to the rule. But, in our experience and in it’s mandate, the ADA simply does not allow any exceptions to this rule. For example, one bathroom on a mountain in Appalachia was designed with a door that swung into the bathroom. The designers may have assumed that, because of the elevation, no one with disabilities could make it to the bathroom. However, someone in a wheelchair did, and then couldn’t use the bathroom. They sued the federal government, which owned the bathroom. Even if you think your bathroom is an exception, it is always best to follow the ADA guidelines.

But an Inspector Already Signed Off on It

Building inspectors may be in charge of assessing some properties for ADA compliance; however, they are not the final word on it. Your inspector may have made a judgement call that the door doesn’t need to swing out (or they may have forgotten about the rule) however, that will not protect you from the legal consequences of failing to follow the ADA. That includes fines.

One reason it is so important to work with a commercial door professional is to get expert advice on the ADA and other compliance issues. Building code inspectors are not expected to have a full grasp of ADA rules and we have found that many don’t.

Other ADA Door Codes

Swing direction isn’t the only code you need to be compliant with. Your bathroom door also cannot take more than five pounds of pressure to open and must be at least 32 inches wide. Your commercial door technician should be able to walk you through the requirements.