– Joanna, Westchester, NY
An offset hinge. This is a simple solution, that can add 2″ to the width of a doorway (it doesn’t have to be the bathroom). When a doorway is built, you get a matching door to fit. A 26″ door fits in a 26″ wide doorway (adding a 1/4″ for spacing). So a 25″ wide wheelchair will fit through this 26″ wide doorway, right? Wrong. The measurement you really are looking for is not the width of the doorway, but the doorway clearance. The unblocked space of the doorway. When you open a door, the edge of the door, right along the hinge, is blocking part of the doorway. A door edge can take up 2″. So in the example provided, a 24″ wide wheelchair might just scrape through, but a 25″ wide wheelchair will not make it.
An offset hinge replaces the existing hinge. Same holes, same location, same purpose, swinging the door in and out of the doorframe but the unique design of an offset hinge is that it opens the door past the doorframe, not inside the doorframe. You gain 2″ of clearance, and have access to the entire width of the doorway.
There are only two conditions that need to be taken into account when considering an offset hinge. First, there needs to be 2-3″ from the existing hinge to the next wall. If the existing doorway is right up against the wall, there is no room to place the offset hinge. Second, an offset hinged door will swing 2″ further into the room. If there is open space in the room, the larger door swing is unimpeded. But if the current door swings very close to a sink or other fixed position item in the room (less than 2″), using an offset hinge will cause the door to bump into that object, and not open the doorway fully. It may still open the doorway more than a standard hinge, but you would have to measure this out in advance.
Offset hinges may be found in some hardware stores, though many will not know what you are referring to. Large warehouse chain stores have them on-line, as do several on-line hardware websites. Search for offset hinge or swing clear hinge.
Ben Lieman, ATP, MSW is the Assistive Technology Specialist with the Greater New York Chapter, advising patients and caregivers about medical equipment, home accessibility, and augmentative communications devices. To ask Ben a question, simply email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at (212) 720-3057. Ben will answer all questions directly as usual, but not all questions will appear in the Monthly Update.