Meeting ADA Standards With an Elevator

When installing an elevator for home or commercial use, many customers wonder, “When is an elevator required by code?” The specific requirements can vary, but generally, a public building that’s being newly built or renovated and has multiple floors will be required to have an elevator under the Americans With Disabilities Act. However, it’s not enough to ask the question of when is an elevator required by code: It’s important to also consider the specific details that can make your elevator easier to use for people of varying abilities. Whether you’re purchasing a commercial elevator that the public will use or fitting a custom residential elevator into a home for a disabled person, you want to ensure that the elevator meets ADA standards for elevator accessibility. Let’s take a look at the modifications and specifications an elevator must have to satisfy these requirements.

Easy Access

person in a wheelchair entering an elevator

Elevators must be placed on an accessible route that complies with ASME A17.1 Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators specifications. The space where the elevator is accessed should include proper flooring and ramps where appropriate. After all, an elevator isn’t very useful if people can’t get to it.

Proper Stop Positioning

the gap between an elevator and the floor

All elevator cars should have self-leveling features that ensure that the elevator comes to a stop even with the floor. There should be no more than a half-inch of difference between the level of the elevator floor and the level of the hall outside.

Call Buttons

elevator call buttons

Elevator passengers of all abilities should be able to access the call buttons. Under ADA guidelines, hall call buttons must be centered 42 inches above the floor. These buttons should have visual indicators that show when the elevator call was registered and answered. The buttons cannot be smaller than three quarters of an inch, and they should be raised or mounted flush with the wall.

Hall Lanterns

hall lantern

Hall lanterns must be placed at the entrance of every hoistway to display which car is responding to a call. This should include an audible signal that announces which direction the car is going as well as a verbal cue to announce whether the car is traveling up or down.

Inclusion of Braille Characters

picture of Braille characters here, preferably on elevator buttons

Your elevator must be equipped to accommodate people with visual impairments as well as physical ones. Door jambs should include Braille signs that indicate which floor you are on, with the Braille placed 60 inches above the ground. The characters must be at least 2 inches high.

Door Reopening Device

picture of elevator doors

The elevator doors should open and close automatically and include a reopening device that can stop the car door and open it again in the event of an obstruction from a person or object. The device should be able to sense the obstruction and reopen the doors without touching the object.

Signal Timing for Calls

There is a minimum amount of time required between the elevator doors closing and the notification that the elevator is responding to a call. This door timing is calculated with this equation: T = D/(1.5 ft/s) or T = D/(445 mm/s). To better understand the calculation, it may be helpful to look at a graph.

Elevator Car Dimensions

wheelchair in an elevator

One of the most important aspects of ADA compliance is to ensure that an elevator can fit a wheelchair. The required cab depth is specified as 51 inches and the width a minimum of 68 inches for cars with side-opening doors and 80 inches for center-opening doors. It’s also highly recommended that a support rail is included on the rear wall to further aid passengers who use wheelchairs.

Floor Surfaces

photo of an elevator floor

The most important characteristic your elevator floor should have is slip-resistance. The flooring should be firm and stable, and if there is carpeting, it must be secured with a pad or backing with the exposed edges fastened down.


To guarantee a safe level of lighting, illumination in the car must be at least 5 foot-candles.

Car Position Indicators

Provide a visual car position indicator that shows where the elevator is within the hoistway. When the car stops at or passes a floor, the corresponding indicators should light up, and there should be an audible signal.

Car Controls

photo of elevator controls

The car controls must have specific accommodations as well. Buttons should be at least three quarters of an inch in size and raised or mounted flush with the wall. All control buttons must have Braille in addition to visual indicators. The buttons cannot be placed higher than 54 inches, and emergency buttons should be grouped together at the bottom of the control panel. The control panel should be on the front wall with center-opening doors and the side wall by the door with side-opening doors.

Emergency Communications

The elevator must include a two-way communication system between the elevator car and a receiver outside of the hoistway. The controls must be placed no more than 48 inches from the floor and indicated with a raised or recessed symbol with approved lettering. The system should not require voice communication, but if it does include a handset, the cord length must be at least 29 inches.

Our knowledgeable and professional staff at is well-versed in ADA requirements and can advise you on which products will meet your compliance needs and what modifications can be made to your existing elevator. We offer a modernization service that may be of use along with repairs and services for all of our products. Contact us today for more information.

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Elevators are costly, so make sure you know exactly what you and your family needs before agreeing on installation. The cost of an elevator should reflect your household needs.

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