Good Question: Why doesn’t every place have blue buttons to open doors?

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Let’s answer a good question about doors. The focus of this story is on making places more accessible for all. It’s a serious topic, especially for those living with a disability.

“I was injured in a diving accident in 1990 when I was 14,” said Chris Hilderbrant, the executive director for the Rochester Spinal Association.

He has been an advocate for people with disabilities for decades after his injury left him paralyzed from the waist down.

I talked to Chris to get the answer to this. Nancy asked me: “I’d love to know why restaurants and even some medical clinics, seem to be exempt from having to have blue buttons that open the door. So many of us are dependent upon them, yet they’re not there.”

When you check the Americans with Disabilities Act, you’ll see this list of requirements. Starting with, at least 60% of public entrances in newly built facilities must be accessible to individuals who use wheelchairs or have mobility impairments.

The ADA National Network also states that, although automatic doors can provide greater accessibility, they are not required by ADA standards.

“It would be better to have a blue button everywhere but even that doesn’t accommodate everybody,” Hilderbrant said. “Because there are people who have no use of their arms and maybe drive their chair with a straw so they couldn’t press a button. But a motion sensor door like at Wegmans and other stores so that’s better still than the power-assisted ones.”

Hilderbrant says some of the standards are vague, mainly defining what’s easily openable.

“It’s challenging because internal doors there are a lot of requirements,” Hilderbrant said. “It can’t have more than like a five pound pull force to open but due to weather conditions they don’t have specific requirements on external doors so they can be very heavy to open and they don’t have to have those buttons.”

Local governments could always make their own rules to go further than what’s in the ADA. Hilderbrant says another thing to consider on these compromises is its easy for a big company to pay for blue buttons to open doors but for a small mom-and-pop shop. It may not be doable financially.

If you have a good question that you want us to answer, email Brennan Somers at