Access Control ADA and Disability Laws Tutorial

By Brian Rhodes, Published Feb 17, 2020, 10:01am EST (Info+)

Safe access control is paramount, especially for those with disabilities.

Most countries have codes to mandate safe building access for those who may have difficulty with 'traditional' building design. In the US, the "Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)" are these codes, while similar requirements are found in Canada's Bill C-81 and the UK's 2010 Equality Act.

In this note, we examine the most common ways disability and accessibility codes impact access control design.

Key Access Control Requirements

The top 3 ways accessibility codes impact access control design are:

  1. Door Hardware Must Be Compliant
  2. Turnstiles Must Include Gates
  3. Accessible Reader Height/Door Controls

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Turnstiles **** **** *****

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Accessible ****** ******/**** ********

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*** ***** ********** *** ********* ** required ********** **** ********* ** *** type ******** ** *** ****:

Comments (7)

Good article covering one of the finer points of access control that comes up in a number of ways especially in retrofits where we have to explain to the client why their existing round door knobs cannot stay once we touch the door locks and hardware in an access control retrofit situation.

In most cases, there is a silver lining in replacing the existing round knob set with a new electrified lever set, because it knocks out both needs in one swoop, i.e. the existing round door knob goes away as well as providing an electrified means of controlling access through the door. To boot, we eliminate the infamous ceiling-mounted REX motion sensor and use the built-in REX option in the cylindrical lever set and set it to monitor-only operation.

Much cleaner and better looking door install after all is said and done ... only challenges are finding/working with a locksmith that charges a fair price for core drilling the door (in the case of a solid or composite wood core door) and sometimes needing a little extra time for fishing control wire for the power transfer hinge.

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Access control retrofit scenario we ran into last year:

We did an access control retrofit on an existing storefront office door that had an operational motorized door opener that a prior tenant used (that had moved out).

The interior push-plate was still there but the exterior card reader and push plate and wiring were removed when the prior tenant moved out.

The new tenant said they didn't intend to use the automatic operator on this door, but they might in the future. They wanted to leave the interior push plate in place for that intent. There was also a sticker on the glass on of the door that indicated there was an automatic opener.

My position was that if they intended to leave the interior push plate and automatic opener in place (not to mention the sticker on the window) that regardless of their intent to use it right now as a handicap entrance or not, that the door controls would need to be brought back up to ADA compliance if they wanted to have access controls installed on this door again, including installation of an exterior push plate and restoring all of the interlock wiring logic between the card reader system, both push plates, the automatic operator, and the mag lock on the door.

Long story short, it's surely listed somewhere in the building codes, but if there are any control devices left on a door in an ACS retrofit scenario (commercial) that would indicate their prior use in an ADA-type use case, they must be made fully operational regardless of the new occupant's wishes or they must be removed and an alternate building entry point be brought into compliance with ADA specs.

I know this sounds like common sense and I did not have the exact passage from an ADA document to back this up, but has anyone else run into this and gotten pushback on the added cost in these types of retrofit applications?

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Here are two companies that I recommend that are doing great work in this space.

Portal Entryways | Home

aira.io/about

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Are gates always required by ADA where there are turnstiles? Or must there just be another accessible entrance to the building? Asking because I have seen 4' high turnstile installs with no adjacent gates.

Great article, Brian! Happy to see more in-depth access control articles on IPVM.

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If other accessible openings are available, then gates are not needed.

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Thank you for the extra thought for the disabled and wheelchair users.

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"In plain terms, existing buildings are often allowed to remain in a 'non-compliant' state until audits or improvements force the update. In many situations, adding or upgrading access control systems qualify as a 'improvement', and so the move to compliance must be taken as a result."

Would this strictly be the affected area you are working on, or would the entire building now need to be brought up to a "compliant" state. For instance, if you put in new door hardware on a new door installation, does that mean the next door down the hall that is already existing may need to have it's hardware changed out?

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