Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Where can I find the accessibility standards for dwelling units required to be accessible under the Fair Housing Act's design and construction requirements?

The Fair Housing Act requires seven basic requirements that must be met to comply with the access requirements of the Act. Those Requirements are:

Requirement 1. An accessible building entrance on an accessible route.
Requirement 2. Accessible common and public use areas.
Requirement 3. Usable doors (usable by a person in a wheelchair).
Requirement 4. Accessible route into and through the dwelling unit.
Requirement 5. Light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls in accessible locations.
Requirement 6. Reinforced walls in bathrooms for later installation of grab bars.
Requirement 7. Usable kitchens and bathrooms.

These requirements are stated in the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 3604(f)(3)(C). To describe these requirements in more detail, HUD published Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines (the Guidelines) on March 6, 1991, and supplemented those Guidelines with a Supplemental Notice: Questions and Answers About the Guidelines published on June 28, 1994. The Guidelines are one of seven safe harbors for compliance that HUD has identified.

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Which entrance or entrances to a covered unit must be accessible? Can the accessible entrance be a patio door or a back door?

An entrance is an exterior access point used by residents for the purpose of entering the building. Using a patio door or a secondary door like a back door as the only accessible entrance establishes different terms and conditions for people with disabilities. This practice may also require a person with disabilities to use long or circuitous routes, which violates the Act. This principle was recently affirmed in United States v. Edward Rose Construction Co., Civil Action No. 02-73518, (W.D. MI, 2003) where the court said, "HUD interprets the Act such that a primary entrance is part of the public or common use areas, regardless of whether it opens from the interior or exterior. If this is true, then, it must comply with the FHA accessibility requirements, even if there is a secondary entrance that is adequately accessible. A 'primary entrance,' it seems, is one that is on an accessible route and is most likely to be used as such, particularly when it is most convenient to parking."

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Under the Fair Housing Act's design and construction requirements, may an accessible entrance be through a loading dock or service door?

No. See Guidelines, Definition of "Entrance," which states, "For purposes of these guidelines, an "entrance" does not include a door to a loading dock or a door used primarily as a service entrance, even if non-handicapped residents occasionally use that door to enter." Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines, 56 FR 9472, 9482, March 6, 1991.

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When swimming pools are provided as a public and common use amenity, what are the accessibility requirements under the Fair Housing Act?

Requirement 2 covers recreational facilities such as swimming pools. Fair Housing Act Design Manual, Chart, 2.4, Diagram 2.8. A swimming pool must be located on an accessible route, but there is no requirement that an accessible route be provided into the pool. In addition, a door or gate accessing the pool must meet Requirement 3 and the route must provide access to the deck around the pool.

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Are garbage dumpsters required to be accessible under the design and construction requirements?

The garbage dumpster itself is not covered by the design and construction requirements. However, a sufficient number of garbage dumpsters must be located on an accessible route. If an enclosure is built around the dumpster, the opening must have a 32 inch clear width and an accessible route must be provided to the dumpster door. If parking is provided at the dumpster, accessible parking must also be provided.

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Where must the required clear opening at doors be measured?

With the door open 90 degrees, the clearance is measured between the face of the door and the opposing doorstop. The primary entrance door to dwellings and public and common use doors must have a 32-inch minimum clear opening. Passage doors within a dwelling must have a nominal 32-inch clear opening. Preamble to the Guidelines, 56 FR 9472, 9487, Guidelines for Requirement 3, March 6, 1991.

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If a bathroom has more than one entrance door, must all doors comply with access requirements?

Yes, all doors that are for user passage must meet access requirements and provide a nominal 32-inch clear opening.

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What is a nominal 32-inch clear opening?

A nominal 32-inch clear opening measures at least 31 and 5/8 inches from the face of the door to the opposing doorstop when the door is open 90 degrees.

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What are the accessibility standards for pantries?

Shallow closet pantries that have an interior depth of 24 inches or less may have doors of any width. Deeper walk-in pantries must have doors that comply with Requirement 3, and an accessible route into the pantry that complies with Requirement 4.

Shelving is not addressed in the Guidelines, but it is recommended that some shelves be provided at accessible levels, or that the shelves be adjustable.

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May an interior passage door open into and overlap a 36-inch wide accessible route?

Yes, as long as there is at least a 36-inch wide accessible route on both sides of the door if the door is shut. The Guidelines do not require maneuvering space at interior doors in covered dwelling units. See the Fair Housing Act Design Manual, page 3.3. Maneuvering space at the door is required for doors in public and common use areas, which includes primary entrance doors of dwelling units on the exterior side of the door.

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What is the allowable height for door opening hardware on exterior doors to a dwelling unit?

The exterior of dwelling unit doors are public and common use areas and must meet the minimum standards for door hardware set in ANSI A117.1. The answer to how high the door hardware can be placed depends on which edition of ANSI is being applied: ICC/ANSI-1998, Section 404.2.7 48 inches maximum, 34 inches minimum above the floor or ground CABO/ANSI A117.1-1992, Section 4.13.9 48 inches maximum, 15 inches minimum above the floor or ground for a front approach, 54 inches maximum, 15 inches minimum above the floor or ground for a side approach ANSI A1171-1986, Section 4.13.9 48 inches maximum, 15 inches minimum above the floor or ground for a front approach, 54 inches maximum, 15 inches minimum above the floor or ground for a side approach

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