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…That is the question.

As MOD’s Assistant Director of Community Services, I wanted to spend some time discussing automatic door openers. This is a very common topic that I get asked about. To paraphrase Shakespeare, “Are automatic door openers required or not required at entrances?”

Well, like anything, there are a couple of answers depending on the specific situation. In a perfect world, if an entrance is built compliant with both the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board’s rule and regulations (MAAB) and the Americans with Disabilities Act Architectural Design Standards, they would not be required. For example, if the door has the appropriate weight, maneuvering clearances, hardware, width, and level landings, the code would not require an automatic door opener be installed.

Automatic door opener at entrance of state building

Automatic door opener at entrance of state building

This is where it gets a little complicated. The MAAB would require a variance if any of the above features could not be built compliant. Often times, to mitigate some of those issues, automatic door openers are ordered by the Board to be installed. However, if a project is having difficulty complying with the pull or push side clearances, the space needed to get to and open the door, or the actual weight of the door, automatic door openers can be installed to mitigate those issues without the need for a variance from the MAAB.

I personally like when designers use automatic door openers at entrances. It not only helps people who have difficulty opening the door due to a disability, but it also helps everyone: a parent pushing a stroller, a person carrying groceries, a person with limited upper body maneuverability, etc. Automatic door openers are useful to everyone.

If there is a structural access topic you would like discussed, please let me know. You can reach me at jeff.dougan@state.ma.us or 617-727-7440.

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Assistant Director, Community Services Program

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