The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law designed to provide equal access for all citizens. Under this standard, all buildings that are open to the public must provide equal access for people with disabilities. This means that all visitors and occupants must be able to safely enter and exit the building, and must also be able to move throughout the building without difficulty. Keep in mind that individual states may have their own ADA standards in place, though state requirements must be at least as stringent as the federal standard.
When it comes to entering and exiting a building safely, ADA requires that exterior doors be easily operated by frail, disabled, or wheelchair-bound visitors. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is through the use of automatic door openers. These devices consist of an operator, which is installed on the door and frame, as well as an actuator. The actuator is typically a push pad or button that automatically opens and closes the door. The operator and actuator are linked by wires, and each is also connected to a power supply.
Installing the Operator
Before installing an automatic operator, be sure to choose one that is properly sized for your door. More powerful units are needed to open heavy or over-sized doors, while smaller units can easily open lightweight doors. Each operator comes with a paper template that can be mounted on the door and frame. The template will indicate exactly where to install the operator body on the frame, as well as where to connect the arm to the door. These units are always installed on the inside of the door to protect the operator from rain or vandalism. On standard outswinging doors, a regular-arm operator can be used. If the doors swing in, a parallel-arm track must be installed with the operator to allow the door to function properly. This track is usually available as an add-on feature with most automatic operators.
The operator can be hard-wired into the building's electrical system using wiring run through the frame or wall. It may also be connected to an external power supply box, which can be surface-mounted or hidden within the wall. Many external power supplies feature a simple plug-in connection that makes installation easier.
Installing the Actuator
Most ADA standards for automatic operators focus on the location of the actuator. Many types of actuators are available to suit any building design. Some units are mounted on the door jamb and others can be mounted on the wall nearby. Buyers will also find actuators that can be mounted on steel bollards set into the ground near the building's entrance. By examining ADA requirements, you can determine which of these mounting options is best-suited for your application.
Under ADA, the actuator must be located between 1 and 5 feet from the door. It must be accessible from both sides of the door, whether the door is open or closed. It must also be placed so that a person using the actuator will not be within the path of a swinging door. Finally, actuators must be placed between 34 and 48 inches above the ground or floor.
Once the best location has been chosen, the actuator is surface-mounted or recessed into the wall, jamb, or bollard. The actuator is then wired to the operator using low-voltage wiring. Some units may offer a wireless connection, which can be easier for novice installers. These wireless units must be equipped with a battery to supply power to the actuator.
Emily Beach works in the commercial construction industry in Maryland. She received her LEED accreditation from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2008 and is in the process of working towards an Architectural Hardware Consultant certification from the Door and Hardware Institute. She received a bachelor's degree in economics and management from Goucher College in Towson, Maryland.